The Hoboken High School football team was undergoing a major change with their offensive approach, scrapping the old run-oriented Delaware Wing-T formation for a pass-happy spread attack.
One of the main reasons why veteran head coach Lou Taglieri made the change was the kid with the unique name of Wilden Germain.
Germain was a sophomore wide receiver on last year’s team, including some clutch catches for touchdowns in the season-opening win over Shabazz of Newark.
But Taglieri knew that Germain would be fine engineering the new offense.
“He’s very athletic and runs well,” Taglieri said of Germain. “He has intangibles you just can’t teach. He’s also a straight A student, so I knew he was very bright. I knew he would be able to pick up the offense very quickly. I didn’t need him to do too much. Sure, it was a gamble, but I’ve been around long enough to know what it takes to be a good quarterback.”
Taglieri said that he knew Germain was eager to take over the role.
“He wanted to learn and watched others, learning how to play the position,” Taglieri said. “If it was good for the team, then Wilden was all for it. The team comes first. There isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his friends.”
Germain was asked how he was able to attain his very different first name.
“My grandmother gave it to me,” Germain said. “My father was named Wilner, so she just came up with Wilden. I have a lot of people ask me about my name and where it came from.”
Now, we all know – perhaps.
Germain was definitely eager to take over the starting quarterback role from the graduated Elijah Mercado.
“I started running quarterback plays when I was a freshman,” Germain said. “I always kept it in my mind that I’d like to play quarterback. I knew that if something happened to Elijah, God forbid, I would be here to replace him. I was willing to do it for my team, but I knew I had the ability to be a quarterback if I put my mind into it.”
So Germain put in a lot of time and effort to become the No. 1 signal caller.
“I worked a lot on my own,” Germain said. “There’s a field next to where I live and I went there and threw the ball with my teammates. After doing the weight lifting and conditioning, I knew I had to be the quarterback.”
Taglieri said that it didn’t take Germain a long time to get the routine down pat.
“He learned very fast,” Taglieri said. “Day to day, we’d see how he studies things and see the strides he was making to be a good quarterback.”
Fast forward to the season opener last Friday night, ironically against Shabazz once again.
Germain was not himself in the early going and Taglieri saw it right away.
“He was very hyper and nervous,” Taglieri said. “He just needed to calm down. So we had a little talk and I told him to just have fun. I said, ‘Wilden, relax, have fun.’ After that, he was fine. He started to turn it on.”
“Once the game got started, I had a lot going through my head,” Germain said. “I knew I had to do some good things with my feet. I think it helped me a lot that he [Taglieri] never gave up on me. He had a lot of faith in me to turn the whole offense around for one person. He never gave up on me. We all basically started from scratch. I had to make sure I made the right plays. After the first quarter, it got a lot easier. The game started to come to me.”
Germain scored three touchdowns rushing in the final three quarters and collected 77 yards on the ground. He completed 8-of-10 passes for 121 yards as well, leading the Red Wings to a 24-21 victory over Shabazz in Newark. The Red Wings also had to survive a lengthy delay when the lights went out in Schools Stadium in Newark, sitting on the sidelines for a good 45 minutes while officials worked on the lights.
So through the delay and the early woes, Germain was able to lead Hoboken to victory in his first high school start.
For his efforts, Germain has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week. Germain is the first honoree in the weekly feature that culminates next June with the presentation of the Hudson Reporter Male and Female Athletes of the Year.
Taglieri is happy to have Germain running his new-fangled offense.
“He threw a long pass to Kyiese Lopez from his own 2-yard line,” Taglieri said. “When was the last time Hoboken had a quarterback to do that. We have confidence in him. He’s getting better and better throwing the ball every day. He’s getting more confidence each and every day. The more he does it, the better he’s become. You get one of these types of kids every 10 years or so.”
Taglieri loves Germain’s temperament.
“He’s always smiling ear to ear,” Taglieri said. “He’s just a special kid. His personality is catching on with the rest of the team. They can see the way he acts. We always knew he could do the job. He just needed the chance to show that he could do it. It’s why he was chosen to play the position. We designed plays for him and he made the right reads.”
“I think it’s a good attribute to have,” Germain said. “As a quarterback, I have to be able to make the play, run for a couple of yards. You need to be a good athlete. I’m blessed to have the ability to run and I’m getting better as a thrower. As long as I keep getting better, keep seeing improvement, then I’ll be fine.”
Taglieri believes that Germain is the type of kid who could eventually play at one of the service academies.
“I’ve always wanted to place a kid in one of the military academies and Wilden is that type of kid,” Taglieri said. “He’s certainly not against it.”
Germain likes the idea he’s already made a reputation for being a good student.
“I always wanted to get an education and maybe play the sport I love and get a degree,” Germain said. “That’s a big goal for me. I’m going to be a good student. I love when people notice I get straight A’s that they say, ‘Oh, you’re that smart kid.’ My mother tells me everything starts with getting good grades.”
Marie Germain deserves credit for raising her son the right way, the kid with the unique name.
“I guess for the next two years I’m the Hoboken quarterback,” Germain said. “I like that Wilden is unique.”
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.