Linkous, Blacksburg angling for better results this season
BLACKSBURG – C.J. Linkous has an inside linebacker’s mentality, which is convenient because that’s the football position he plays for Blacksburg High School.
Linkous, a 5-foot-9, 188-pound senior has all the blue ribbon qualifications for the position – aggressive temperament, zest for close order combat, and rugged build.
He also has intangibles. Such as, you might ask?
That’s a little complicated. First, don’t get the idea that just because he’s a bang-up football player that he doesn’t have other interests. Those other interests can tell you something about the type of football player he is.
So say, big guy, what else are you into besides football?
“Fishing,” he said without a pause.
What does he usually angle for?
“Bass and catfish.”
He was asked if he’d ever heard of noodling for catfish.
“Heck yeah,” he said. “I want to do it.”
Never mind that he’s going to have to go to another state to noodle legally, you just have to wonder about this young man’s mental state to want to do it to begin with.
After all, you have to wonder about somebody who would voluntarily reach up into a dark hole under an undercut stream or pond bank, go blindly all the way to the shoulder into the murky space behind a thick rootball or some such underwater cavity in order to apprehend a large predator of a fish.
An angler like that is not your normal, everyday thrill seeker.
To Invade the lair of the prey of choice, flathead catfish, is not an errand for the timid. The bewhiskered brutes that an experienced noodler targets are typically 40 pounds and up.
Once you’ve identified the suspected hidey-hole, the technique is you dive under water, anywhere from a few feet to 20 feet or so, and reach right inside the front door. If you’re a lucky noodler, you stick your whole arm up in the hole and the flathead subsequently develops an attitude and attempts to devour your limb as if it were a human hotdog dressed with neither bun nor mustard.
Then, assuming your arm is still attached to the rest of your torso, you reach on through the fish’s dentures and grab the beast’s gill plate from the inside.
Then you hang on.
You have a partner topside there to help, but most times, for that first confrontation between fish and man, it’s just you, the fish, and God. If you don’t have your arm wrenched out of its socket or have the misfortune to drown, they say it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
The bonus is tender filets for all.
Linkous is all over it.
“That would be great,” he said. “Only thing that worries me are the snapping turtles and snakes.”
He didn’t mention the beavers, muskrats, and other toothy types, but who’s worrying about rodents? If this guy’s willing to go toe to fin with a 40-pound catfish in the flathead’s lair, doesn’t that tell you all you need to know about Linkous’ aptitude for linebacking?
Forget the fish. All the action anybody will need starts 7:30 p.m. tonight when Blacksburg entertains Giles in the football season opener. Linkous and his defensive associates ought to have their hands full with the Spartans single wing offense. Linkous is the kind of player that believes in being prepared.
“His motor never stops,” Blacksburg coach David Crist said.
The Bruins as a unit have been showcasing their tenacity this preseason. The defense should be stingy. Along with Linkous, the Bruins have another returning starter at inside linebacker in Marcus Ilardo, who led the team in tackles with 82, 69 unassisted. Parker Robertson had 15 tackles for loss and he’s also back.
For his part, Linkous never takes a play off and never is far from the point of attack. Those who watch much Blacksburg tape notice that Linkous is almost never out of the picture. On those rare instances when he is, he’s back in view quickly, materializing swiftly somewhere near the ball.
“Doesn’t matter, he’s always in pursuit,” said Bruins linebacker coach James Shealor. “He gets chipped out of the play a little bit down the field, he’s always back in the play in the film, in the picture, at the end of the play. Somehow, wherever the ball is, that’s where he’s going to be.”
Blacksburg needs all that sort of play it can get after going 4-16 overall, 1-9 in the River Ridge District the past two years. The tide may be turning this year. Everybody around here senses a surge coming on. Squad members have enthusiastically been attentive to their business this preseason.
“I think the year’s going to be great for us,” Linkous said. “Our mentality has changed for sure. We have a winning mentality left from last year. We’ve increased our effort, we’ve practiced harder.”
He started noticing the change in attitude during offseason conditioning.
“Everybody was doing everything 100 percent,” he said. “We went at it. The whole time, nobody let up.”
Linkous demonstrates the concept for his less experienced teammates in word and deed.
One way Linkous differs from ordinary ballplayers is his ability to adapt to a multitude of roles. That is particulary apparent when he draws an offensive assignment.
“He can play anywhere on the line, center included,” offensive line coach Crist said.
Linkous is the first guy off the bench when one of the O-line guys has to come out.
He’s already among the few who are first to the football defensively on a routine basis. Maybe one day he’ll use that same tenacity and targeting skill to take a deep reach up into a watery flathead mansion.
By Ray Cox
The Roanoke Times | 381-1672
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