By Mike Max

LAKEVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — The Lakeville North football team is still grateful to be making the walk down the hill to the football field, because it means the season is still going.

As you watch practice it hardly strikes you that the team’s smallest player — 5-foot-8-inch 160 pound running back Wade Sullivan — is the team’s best player.

“Yeah I play with a chip on my shoulder but I don’t really think of my size as a disadvantage because I think I play big,” Sullivan said.

And he makes big plays, scoring more touchdowns than most teams. It’s hard to explain, unless you’ve been with him for his career.

“He’s physically and mentally tough. Somehow he gets stronger over the course of game, he gets stronger throughout the season,” coach Brian Vossen said.

“Injuries that bother other kids don’t seem to bother him. Our trainer came to us earlier in the season said he might have a fracture on his ankle. And Wade’s running in place telling us, ‘That’s impossible, I feel fine.'”

Some of it can be traced to his other love — wrestling. He was a state champion in a sport that required much and gave him back a sense of toughness.

“Yeah, wrestling makes you a lot tougher,” Sullivan said. “It’s the practices. Practices and the matches you got to grind out through the season.”

What his spirit, his drive, his numbers have done for the football program goes beyond stat lines, because what you can’t measure is more impressive that what you can.

“The fear of injuries in youth football — all these parents saying, ‘I don’t know, my kid’s too small,'” Vossen said. “Wade Sullivan’s the smallest kid we have on our football team and he’s probably the best running back in the state of Minnesota.

That’s an intangible imprint — one that helps a ball carrier who plays without fear carry it to an entire roster.

“No one takes a bigger beating than he does, and if he can get up and come to practice every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and participate in all of it then every player on our team can,” Vossen said.

Because the smallest kid on the team plays the game he loves with passion. And that’s his advice to those that come after him — size is never an excuse.

“I’d tell them that if you work hard enough and you want it bad enough, then anything’s possible,” Sullivan said.

Mike Max