CAIRO — Last year, J.J. Wilcox was overshadowed by two of Cairo’s biggest stars.

Heading into Saturday’s season opener at Bainbridge, Wilcox, a senior, feels like it’s finally his time to shine.

“It helps motivate you more and when you finally get your chance, you have to shine,” Wilcox said about sitting behind Johnathan Bryant at linebacker last season and Angelo Pease at quarterback.

Added Cairo coach Tom Fallaw about Wilcox’s emergence into a starting role this season: “The problem with J.J. last year is that J.J. was backing up Johnathan Bryant, who was probably our best player on defense, and he was backing up Angelo Pease, who was our best player on offense. So, at that time, he kind of got caught in the middle.”

This year, though, the spotlight has been turned up on Wilcox. Bryant graduated, opening a role on defense and Wilcox has slipped out from under center into a wide receiver position on offense. It’s a transition that has come easily.

“It’s pretty easy,” he said. “From playing quarterback, I know all the routes and playing defense is knowing routes and stuff, so it really helped me out with the adjustment.”

That natural transition was evident when Wilcox earned an award for best receiver at a team camp the Syrupmakers attended this summer.

“That’s kind of the thing we really like about J.J., he kind of waited his turn and his turn is now,” Fallaw said, adding that Wilcox has already attracted the attention of college scouts, particularly Georgia Southern, despite the lack of playing time. “We expect big things from him.”

Wilcox expects big things from himself, too. Sitting on the sidelines the past few seasons wasn’t easy for him, however, it’s something that has helped the senior develop into the player he has become, notably his work in the weight room.

“I did get frustrated sometimes, but coach Fallaw just told me to be patient and my parents told me to be patient and I just waited and I’ve finally gotten my chance and I’m going to go out there and do what I do,” he said. “I’ve been waiting the last three years basically, and hard work in the weight room is finally paying off and coach Fallaw is finally giving me the chance to go out there and do what I do best.”

Said Fallaw: “You know J.J. as a ninth grader was just a scrawny ol’ kid that nobody ever thought would materialize into what he did, but being in our weight room and in our system and believing in everybody has really paid dividends for him. But, he’s ready to step up.”

And after the lengthy wait, it doesn’t even matter to Wilcox where that chance to step up from.

“I just want to play,” he said.

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