Saturday, July 2, 2011

Player Profile - Julie Wilke, #1 - Retired

Julie Wilke
In her first game as an Outlaw Julie Wilke leaped high and caught a Monia Gauck pass for a touchdown, showing that athletic skill comes through regardless of the sport. 

She had never played organized football but was a sports star in both high school and college.  In high school, she scored over 1,000 points, the second highest in school history among girls basketball players. She won all-conference and all-area recognition.  In track she set the school record in the triple-jump and 4x400 relay and she was state qualifier in the 800 meter. 

At Beloit (Wisconsin) College, she was one of only nine women in school history with over 1,000 career points in basketball, ranking fifth in all-time scoring, second in all-time three-point scoring, and she qualified for all-conference.  In track she holds the Beloit College record in the indoor 4x200 and outdoor 4x100 relays and she qualified for all-conference in the javelin throw.  She also played soccer.

Although organized football wasn't available to women, Julie was a big football fan, especially of the Chicago Bears and Walter Payton.  Her high school (boys) football team qualified for the playoffs fifteen years in a row. 

Julie was inspired by the football coach who was honored in the Illinois High School Coaches Hall of Fame. Eventually she went into coaching herself. 

Julie grew up on a farm in Durand, Illinois, just south of the Wisconsin border.  Her father farmed 2,000 acres and her childhood home was on a five-acre site.  Her main farming memory is detassling corn - "the worst job you can ever do."  

Her parents were supportive of her love of sports but never pressured her.  They set up an eight-foot basketball hoop (which they later raised to the regulation ten feet) and Julie spent hours shooting baskets, often competing with her brother in a game of horse.  She created olympics-style competitons, with events like running around the house five times, and awarded medals created from cardboard with aluminum foil.

Only the official is anywhere near her as Julie escapes
defenders and leaps for the first pass ever thrown her 
her way, catching it for the TD.

Julie earned her undergraduate degree at Beloit College with majors in Economics & Management and Sociology.  She later earned her Masters at the University of Texas, Austin.  She came to UT because of their outstanding program in community and regional planning, an area of special interest to her.  She obtained work in that field with NuStats, a survey research company with offices in Austin.  As much as she enjoyed that field of work, her real love in life is sports.

She discovered the Outlaws while a grad student at UT.  Her basketball and track athletic skills transferred well to football.  In her first season as a receiver she led the team in scoring with seven touchdowns and placed second in receptions with a dozen, averaging twenty-two yards.  She even got an opportunity to play quarterback that season and completed all four of her pass attempts - but "unfortunately the last completion was to the other team."

Rolling out from the quarterback position, using her quickness to
avoid defenders and throw a pass.
In her second through fourth seasons she played quarterback full-time.  Her athletic skills and understanding of the game made her an outstanding quarterback. 

At 5' 7" and 135 pounds, she wasn't big but she had strength and speed. 
And she could jump and do basketball style things while up in the air.  Like throw passes.

There's no tackling in basketball but there is in
football - this a bad photo but it captures Julie
leaping to throw a pass, in the grasp of a tackler.
A big difference between basketball and football - there's no tackling in basketball.  Playing for the outlaws, she sometimes had to  throw a pass while in the clutches of the defensive tackler. 

Smart, athletic, a lover of football - yet Julie left after just four seasons.  She left the Outlaws.  She  left NuStats and the career for which she had studied so long. 

Because she found an opportunity to coach.

Possibly still inspired by that high school football coach, possibly just fascinated by the strategies involved in sports, Julie was drawn to coaching. 

So she accepted a job at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, as assistant coach in basketball and track.  Three years later, she is moving on to Stony Point High School in Round Rock where she'll teach history and serve as varsity assistant basketball coach and assistant softball coach.  Between Southwestern and Stony Point, she did a brief return to NuStat but "once coaching is in your blood it is hard to stay away."   She jumped at the Stony Point opportunity to return to coaching.  
Julie talking strategy with coach Soho
The 2007 edition of the Beloit College Magazine featured an article about Julie's success with the Outlaws.  (If you go to the link, you'll need to scroll down to the actual article.)  The editor had been planning to do an article about the campus sports hero.  When she learned Julie was playing professional football she was delighted to be able to do the update for current and past students. 

When I interviewed Julie for the Outlaws website, I was intrigued at her poise, strength, and self-confidence.  She was still a receiver then but when I saw her move to quarterback I wasn't surprised.  She, like Monica Gauck, has that bearing and saavy of a natural leader. 

A natural leader, Julie, #1, leading the team back to the locker room after pre-game warm-up. Naturally.

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