(Josh Mills, Staff)
SIKESTON -- If it wasn't for his friends, Sikeston quarterback and free safety Juqualin Wiggins would not have suited up for the Bulldogs football team.
He would have been content on sticking with his passion of playing basketball, which who could blame him? He's not too shabby on the hardwood either.
"A lot of my senior friends wanted to get me out there and play," Wiggins said. "It was our last year and they felt like if I came out there and played, we'd have a good chance. Coaches would come up and talk with me about coming out but, when friends come up to you it's a different vibe."
Luckily for Sikeston football fans, this type of peer-pressure formulated into one of the most successful seasons in Sikeston High School history with Wiggins leading the way.
It may be argued, but without Wiggins and a little help from his friends, the Bulldogs just might not have been what they were in the 2009 season. Wiggins was a huge part of bringing a once dominant Sikeston football program back to any form of relevance.
Amazingly, in just one season of playing football, Wiggins accomplished what some covet for an entire four-year high school career.
Along with that feat and his many accomplishments on and off the field, Wiggins is the All-Standard-Democrat Football Player of the Year.
Wiggins entered the 2009 football season a year removed from the helmet and pads. He did take part his sophomore season but decided to focus mainly on basketball entering his junior year.
"I was so much in love with basketball," said Wiggins. "But, for my senior year, I thought that if I played football it would give me a better chance to get looks from colleges."
Wiggins had to learn an entirely new offense if he was going to be what Sikeston needed the most; a quarterback. He also would have to learn the roles and assignments of being a free safety. Which was a vital role in Sikeston's run-stop priority on defense.
"I like free safety just because sometimes I want to take out some anger," Wiggins said.
"Quarterback is pretty fun though. It lets you be a leader out there which is something I like to do."
For his excellence at both positions, Wiggins was honored as a second team defensive back in the Class 4 All-State selections. He also won the Carr Trophy award for the SEMO Conference which recognizes the all-around best player in the SEMO Conference.
Record setting year
Learning the new offensive playbook, that was just installed a season ago, was a battle at first but once Wiggins received more and more reps it almost became second nature.
"At first, it was real hard. I thought I never would be able to get it," he said. "I just kept practicing and kept getting reps and it just came to me.
"I've always wanted to play quarterback. I just tried to learn the plays as quick as I could."
It came to him so well in fact, Wiggins set numerous marks in a lofty record book at Sikeston.
He set a new passing record with 1,509 yards, surpassed Charles Largent's 1960 record of a 66% completion percentage with a 68% completion rate (91-of-133), tied Larry Yeargain's record of 16 touchdown passes, was the first Sikeston quarterback to ever rush for 1,000 yards, combined for the most rushing and passing touchdowns in school history and teamed up with running back Eli Jackson to become the first two Sikeston players ever to rush for over 1,000 yards in the same season.
Wiggins was also a big part of the 2009 Bulldogs setting seven single-season offensive records; total offensive yards, rushing yards, passing yards, total points, touchdowns, first downs and total offensive plays. Some are unconfirmed but are believed to be records.
He even paid back one of those friends for getting him out on the field by giving wide receiver Niquavious Dixon, who set two new Sikeston receiving records and tied another, a pass to catch.
He led Sikeston to their first undefeated season since 1976 and helped set a record of 13 wins in one season.
It was truly an unbelievable season for the Bulldogs and the one thing that was missing from a season ago when Sikeston went 5-5, was the dynamic and explosiveness of Wiggins -- on both sides of the ball.
Sikeston's offensive was one of the best in school history, but it was their defense that was so dominant. Wiggins was a part of that as well.
Wiggins was fourth on the team with 87 tackles. He also tied with Dixon with six interceptions on the year -- the most on the Bulldogs team.
If given a choice to play either quarterback or free safety?
"I just like to play and be out there on the field," he said. "Whatever it takes for me to get a win. That's all I'm worried about."
Wiggins would have more than just an impact on the record books or the win-loss column. He, along with the rest of the Bulldogs, single-handedly put the Bulldog football program back in the world of relevance among the Sikeston community.
Street signs, billboards, t-shirts, car decals; Sikeston was hit with a storm of Bulldog football. It all came to a head in what would rival a college atmosphere on Nov. 14 when the Bulldogs hosted the Ladue Watkins Rams on a Saturday afternoon.
Cars were lined up all around Sikeston Public School's Stadium as the tailgate party stretched across most of the practice field west of the playing field. The bleachers were packed with red and black as Sikeston won their first ever quarterfinal game in a 28-6 romp.
Wiggins scored three touchdowns that day. He went 5-of-8 for 117 passing yards and two touchdowns and rushed for one touchdown with 109 yards on 22 carries. He knew something special was happening in the town he loves.
"The community seemed like they just all got together," he said. "What we did as a team brought the community together a little bit more. I think it opened up a lot of opportunities for younger kids."
Future in football?
Once he saw how well he could perform on the football field, Wiggins began to wonder what really lies in his future.
"This year really opened my eyes for me," Wiggins admitted. "Football could be for me. It feels like a blessing from God. I'm glad he gave me this opportunity."
His love for basketball still runs deep but with the overwhelming success he has had in just one full year, a future in football is extremely hard to ignore.
"I would be a fool not to put football up there," Wiggins said about his future. "I just want to make the best decision I can."
If given the opportunity at a football scholarship following his senior year, Wiggins said he 'wouldn't mind.' "It would probably depend on which school it was and what type of offer they had for me."
But for now, Wiggins' concentration is on basketball. The now, two-sport athlete is working on getting into basketball shape with what seems to be yet another successful season of that on the horizon.
It seems that whatever Wiggins touches turns into an automatic success at Sikeston High School. That characteristic is sure to follow him whatever court or field he chooses to play on.