Jacob Bricker’s football career is about to end, and he’s fine with that.
The 5-foot-11, 305-pound nose guard would certainly prefer that it end next week with Middletown’s third consecutive DIAA Division I championship. But if the Cavaliers lose to Caesar Rodney in the semifinals tonight – or fall to Salesianum or Dover in the title game – it won’t make him want to keep playing football.
“I’d love to play college football, but I don’t want to be 25 and have to get knee surgeries,” Bricker said. “I’m looking on the outlook of my life to make sure I’m not like some of the players in the NFL that have to do surgeries every month. I’m just trying to look out for my life in later years.”
A first-team All-State selection last year, Bricker received some interest from college coaches. But he instructed Middletown coach Mark DelPercio to tell them thanks, but no thanks.
“He has great feet, great athleticism for a 300-pound football player,” DelPercio said. “But he has put things in perspective. He wants to focus on his education when he gets to college. He’s a very grounded young man.
“It’s a very mature perspective. You usually don’t get that from a 17- or 18-year-old. They usually believe, ‘I’m a Division I football player and everybody wants to sign me to a scholarship.’ But he’s a very mature young man. How he handles himself and carries himself is very impressive.”
Bricker plans on going to college, and he wants to stay involved in athletics and help others. He aspires to attend West Chester University and study athletic training or sports medicine.
But no more football.
“My body is taking a beating,” he said. “I haven’t had that great of a body. From catching [in baseball] my knees have really been bad. My back isn’t all that great, too.”
Bricker followed his older brother, Ryan, as Middletown’s nose guard and has anchored the defensive line for three years. But he has been most recognizable in the Cavaliers’ short-yardage offense, when he moves to fullback and clears the way.
“It’s just a great feeling to know that you’re the lead blocker and it’s all up to you,” he said. “The pressure is on you.”
Sometimes, Bricker even gets in on the scoring. He punched in a two-point conversion against Appoquinimink last season. This year, he scored a touchdown in Middletown’s 42-0 victory over Delcastle on Oct. 4. His season rushing totals: 1 carry, 1 yard, 1 touchdown.
“That was a great experience,” Bricker said. “I’ll never forget it. I’ll always have that in the back of my mind.”
Middletown quarterback Darius Wade, who has passed for 30 TDs and run for five more this season, was thrilled to see his friend get in the scoring column. It reminded him of William “The Refrigerator” Perry, the 325-pound defensive tackle who scored two touchdowns during the Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl championship season in 1985.
“It’s definitely a change of pace,” Wade said. “In one of our films, we got to watch The Fridge taking a couple of handoffs for touchdowns back with the Bears. For us to have the chance to do it and reenact it ourselves with Bricker, it’s a lot of fun. It was good to see him get in the end zone and get all excited.”
But the coach said Bricker’s goal-line appearances aren’t a novelty.
“Because he has such great feet, he’s a guy we’ve used as a lead blocker or a guy we’ve given the ball to,” DelPercio said. “And it’s not fun and games. He’s got the ability to get the job done. He’s legitimately a guy that can go in there and run somebody over.”
Bricker said he is going to miss football, and he even hopes to help coach the Middletown linemen set to take his place next season. But he is ready for his playing days to end.
“I’ve thought about how this is my last year, and everything is going to change after this,” he said. “My life is going to move on after this, and it’s weird because I never thought it was going to end.
“I’ll definitely learn stuff from this, but I’m not going to have the same grind as I did. Coming out here every day and practicing, having that grind mentality that you keep pushing. It’s not going to be the same.”
DelPercio said Bricker is still asking questions at practice, still striving to improve.
Salesianum ended Middletown’s 23-game winning streak with a 24-13 victory in the final game of the regular season, and Bricker said the Cavaliers have used the setback to grow even closer in the two weeks leading up to their playoff opener.
Now, every game could be his last. He would love to end it with a third state title.
“It would be a dream come true,” Bricker said. “Four long years are starting to come to an end, and I’m ready to finish out with a bang.”