Derek Wolfe has a great future in the game of football as long as he remains healthy. With the size NFL teams dream of, Wolfe has shown early in his Cincinnati career he can be a force along the defensive line.
Learning behind one of his mentors (Adam Hopple) last season, Wolfe posted three tackles as a true freshman in seven games. But with the lack of playing time the Lisbon (Ohio) Beaver Local product had his doubts.
"Last year I came in as a true freshman and got to play behind some great players. We moved to the 3-4 and starting is great. Last year I came in and was disappointed that I didn't redshirt because I didn't get a lot of playing time. But everyone kept telling me the coaches were doing it for a reason and my chance would come. Now I know why they did it because I went to a small high school were maybe the biggest crowd would be 10,000 people. Last year as a freshman I got to go to Oklahoma and play in front of about 90,000 fans and that was a big deal and helped a lot. Now I don't even think about the crowds."
One of the things that made Cincinnati a great choice for Derek was his already strong relationship with Adam Hoppel and knowing some of his future teammates.
"I already knew a lot of people here because I would come down here and visit Adam during my junior year. So I got a chance to know a lot of guys who would be my teammates."
So far this season Derek has seen his numbers jump with the added playing time and starting role. After the Bearcats win over Louisville Derek had posted 25 total tackles and 4 sacks while anchoring the Bearcats new 3-4 defensive look. Despite the added playing time, what has helped Derek get his game to its new level?
"My awareness has been the biggest change to my game. The speed of the game I'm starting to catch up with. In high school I was bigger and stronger than everyone so I could just get a hold of someone and go make a play. Now my reaction time is getting a lot better. Just from spring ball it's gotten a lot better."
Like his teammates Derek knows each week he takes the field he does so with a giant target on his back.
"We go out with a target on our back every week now. With our ranking and each win it gets bigger. But none of that means anything because every game we go into we play the same way. If someone goes down or something else happens we all know its "Next Man In" because everyone is ready to go when ever they are needed."
Despite the fact his close friend Adam Hopple has finished his college career; the pair speaks each night before a game.
"Adam calls me every week before the game. The night before the game he calls me at the hotel and always has something to say. He always tells me not to worry about the crowds because I'm doing something a lot of people only wish they could do. He always says don't screw it up."
When Derek made his choice of college prior to his senior year, many felt his choice was too soon and that Cincinnati really wasn't the place for him to be. Now Derek is having the last laugh knowing he was coming to a special program capable of doing some special things on the field.
"I had a lot of people ask me why Cincinnati. I told them UC was an up and coming program and we were going to shock the world. Now a lot of people have shut up and started coming out of the wood work. When you do good people call and want tickets to games and stuff. For me my hometown already had a lot of people watching the Bearcats because of Adam.