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By Mike Moore
Staff Writer

 Jackson – If he’s not enjoying himself, he’s doing a poor job hiding it.

As he emerged from the locker room last Thursday night following a dominant performance and a convincing win, Malik Wilks was smiling ear to ear.

Is football fun right now?, the Vandercook Lake senior was asked.

“What’s not fun about this,” he quipped back, his smile growing.

Vandercook is in a good spot right, with its football team on the rise, a 2-0 record and picked by many to finally get back to the state playoffs.

And one of the main reasons behind all those facts is Wilks, a charismatic, carefree and ultra-gifted running back/linebacker.

“Every team should have a Malik Wilks,” VCL coach Steve Wolvin said following a 41-0 victory against East Jackson last week. “He’s a kid everyone loves to be around. He brings so much energy to the team. No matter what, he’s going to make sure everyone’s having a good time.”

“I always like to keep that high energy, a smile on my face wherever I go,” Wilks explained.

But he’s more than a good time, he just so happens to be the Jayhawks’ defensive leader and an offensive weapon.

As a junior, Wilks finished the year with a staggering 143 tackles.

“He’s a run-and-chase linebacker,” Wolvin said. “He will chase people down. He’s the kind of guy that’s in on everything.”

In the win against East Jackson, and playing a little more than a half, Wilks was credited with 10 tackles on defense.

Offensively he wasn’t too bad either, rushing three times for 27 yards, and hauling in three touchdown passes.

So is he better on offense or defense?

“That’s tough,” Wolvin said. “We couldn’t afford to lose him at either, that’s for sure.”

“Defense is where I’m at,” Wilks said. “That’s my joy. I love to hit. I think offense is just a nice bonus.”

The ultimate team bonus would be a trip to the state playoffs, something VCL hasn’t enjoyed since 1996.

The team faces Addison (0-2) this weekend with a chance to start 3-0 for the first time since 2008.

Of course, with Wilks and 16 other seniors on the roster, there’s enough maturity to know nothing can be taken for granted, especially after starting 4-1 last year, only to finish 5-4 and miss the postseason.

“We had some big chances that we didn’t take advantage of,” Wilks said of 2014. “Us as seniors, we don’t want to go out like that. We have to become the best team we can be, and that’s scary to think how good we can be.”

One day, one week, and one game at a time, that’s the approach the Jayhawks have to operate with.

And with a smile, a pep in his step and truckloads of confidence, Wilks will be there to lead the way, from Week 3 to Week 10, if all goes according to plan.

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