Brent Guyton presents a conflicting profile.
Resting on one knee in practice, helmet in hand, Wilde Lake's star middle linebacker speaks carefully, pausing before uttering words in an elevated whisper. He accepts much-earned praise with a smile that appears both appreciative and uncomfortable. He seems shy.
He allows himself to indulge in a daydream. An opposing ball carrier approaches, and Guyton zeros in on the runner. The results are not pretty on the surface. But to Guyton, the scene is beautiful.
"I've made some good hits, but I haven't had that one dream hit," he says. "I'm talking helmet flying, chin strap, everything. I'd hate to be the kid that got it."
Any parent would love to have a kid like Guyton. Here's a guy with every reason to gloat. He carries a 3.2 grade-point average and wants to be a businessman someday. His tall, muscular frame is complemented by a handsome face.
And what a future he has. Division I college football powers have been on Guyton's trailsince he was a junior last fall. He has already scheduled visits to Penn State, Syracuse and UCLA. He is still trying to choose two more schools to see. He must pick among Notre Dame, Clemson, Michigan State, Virginia and Georgia Tech.
All of this leaves Guyton with a lotof bragging room. But he wouldn't think of it. Not after the school's yearbook staff voted him as The Most Quiet.
"It makes me feel good," he says. "It's an accomplishment I'm proud of."
Even on the football field, where many players thrive on manufactured anger to create an emotional edge against his opponent, in the huddle Guyton lends a calming, studious presence as the Wildecats defensive captain.
Then again, after the ball is snapped, Guyton is anything but calm. From the first day of summer practice, he has been the anchor of the Wildecats' defense, and arguably the key reason Wilde Lake took an 11-0 record into yesterday's Class 1A semifinal against Milford Mill.
Guyton has started all 11 games, which the Wildecats have won by anaverage of four touchdowns. They recorded seven shutouts while surrendering 47 points, or 4.3 points a game. The defense has scored more touchdowns (eight) than it has given up (seven).
And Guyton has been its heart and soul from the start. He leads the team in solo tackles (86) and assists (70), numbers he achieved despite playing usuallyno more than three quarters each week. He has intercepted four passes, returning two for touchdowns. He has recovered four fumbles.
"Iwatch the films, and I don't think he goes more than two plays without making a tackle," says defensive coach Mike Harrison. "That's how zoned in he is to what's going on."
Guyton presents the ideal football package. His 6-foot-2, 213-pound build is perfect for a 17-year-old linebacker. His 4.65-second, 40-yard -- speed make him great at pursuit. His ability to find the ball, make on-field adjustments and call the defenses always seems to land him in the middle of the action. He is a sure tackler who enjoys leveling people.
And then there is the attitude. Harrison, who coached Guyton as a junior varsity linebacker and has known him throughout his high school career, says he has never met a player more coachable.
"Brent's very businesslike.He's complete, and he's steady. He's always thinking, always analyzing," Harrison says. "He's not a rah-rah, win-one-for-the-gipper kind of guy. Sometimes you've got to shake him up a little bit, because he's so quiet.
"I'd compare him to a shark," he adds. "Sharks are efficient eating machines. He's like an efficient football machine. He just keeps prowling until he finds the football."
Head coach Doug DuVall recalls late last year, when seniors Raphael Wall, Ricky Rowe and Joe Guyton -- Brent's brother -- were the most sought-after WildeLake recruits. By midseason, Brent had shaken off first-year varsityjitters and settled down as a force at inside linebacker. The recruiters began to notice him.
"A kid with Brent's athletic ability andintelligence, there aren't a lot of them around," says DuVall, who ranks Brent among the elite linebackers who have played at Wilde Lake during his 19 years. "He has that ability to take verbal instruction and transform it into physical skill. He's one of those kids who has the potential to play in the NFL."
Guyton, who has played footballsince he was 7, says he never envisioned this kind of potential. Even last year, when he joined an outstanding defense led by his brotherand Rowe -- a defense that gave up just 29 regular-season points -- he started out as an inexperienced, 190-pounder who was "definitely aweak spot."
"I wasn't all that strong or aggressive. After the first few games, I was averaging like three tackles a game," Guyton says. "(Former) Coach (Ed) Ashwell pulled me aside and said 'Look son, you're huge. You have to produce more.' He sort of yelled at me. Ever since that day, I've been more aggressive. I started coming into my own."