Wort racked up scholarship offers from USC, Texas A&M, LSU, and Florida before making a non-binding verbal commitment to sign a letter of intent with the Sooners on April 16th.
After the top four-star prospect inks he will join a host of other players from the “Lone Star State” to don a Crimson and Cream jersey, but his path to Owen Field will certainly be unlike any other.
“I was born in England and both of my parents are from England,” Wort explained.
“Once I turned 13 my dad’s job caused us to move to the States. That is when we ended up moving to Rhode Island.”
Like many other youths in Europe, Wort grew up playing a different type of football.
“I played soccer my whole life up until I was 13,” Wort said. “My team was the Arsenal. It was a dream to go pro in soccer, but at the time and age it was not something that I was really thinking about.”
“I was a pretty good soccer player. I played defender. I was a pretty good all-around athlete, but I was not really thinking about going pro in soccer. I definitely think I am more suited for the game of football than I am for soccer.”
According to Wort and his father (Brian Wort) his passion for the American style of the game began at an early age, even though there were no leagues to play in.
“I always wanted to play football,” Wort began to explain about his early childhood passion for the game. “When I was in England my dad would come to America on business trips and he would buy me an American football and bring it home. I was playing catch all of the time and I would try to get all of my friends to play. I would just kind of fantasize about the game. I really wanted to try it.”
“He had watched the game on TV and always seemed very interested in it,” Brian Wort added about his son’s interest in football. “One of the very first things that he wanted to do when he got here (America) was to sign up and play.”
Wort played his first years of football for East Greenwich High in Rhode Island, but he would bust out on the national recruiting scene after putting up some dominating numbers for the New Braunfels Unicorns.
As a junior he amassed over 200 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, four sacks, and three interceptions, but it took a lot of work to develop his game to that point.
“I played my very first year of football in eighth grade,” Wort informed. “I was not very good. I did not know any of the rules or anything like that. I had a knack for hitting people, but it just kind of took me awhile to catch on.”
“After my sophomore season my dad got a job in Texas that caused us to move to New Braunfels, and that is where I played my fourth year of football. That is where my highlight tape and all of that is from.”
“He spent the first years learning,” Wort’s father reminisced. “He enjoyed it and wanted to play, but he was making a lot of silly mistakes. His first year with the high school is really when he picked up the game and put on a few pounds, all of a sudden you realized he could hit people reasonably hard. He got a feel for it. Every year he has stepped it up another notch.”
As good as Wort played as junior he did not get the same amount of recognition from recruiting services as some of the other top linebackers in the state until his highlight reel reached websites like YouTube.com and Scout.com.
People across the country were able to watch in amazement, as Wort would come flying down the field like a torpedo to deliver bone crushing hit after bone crushing hit on the opposing ball carriers.
Scout.com’s Texas Expert Alan Zepeda admits that Wort’s ability to deliver the big blow and consistently save the defense yardage makes him a special talent.
“It is not just his ability to create or to deliver the devastating blow, but it is the way he flies to the ball,” Zepeda said of Wort’s strengths. “He makes plays at the line of scrimmage.”
“Many highly ranked players make spectacular plays five or six yards downfield, but Wort is up at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield making those types of plays. When Wort is on the field the ball carrier is not going to gain any extra yardage. He consistently makes plays that are positives for the defense, and that is what makes him so special.”
“My strongest asset is my pursuit angles to the football,” Wort added about his talents. “I try to really pick out where I think the player is going to be by the time that I get there. My speed helps me out on that, so my ability to get to the football quickly is (also) one of my strengths.”
Wort believes that his game has really blossomed in his time in the New Braunfels Unicorn football program.
“The coaches in New Braunfels have really helped me develop my game strength wise in the weight room,” Wort surmised. “During my time in Texas those guys have really helped me out.”
“It is much higher level of football in Texas. There is a lot more dedication and it means that much more to the people in the town. In England soccer is everything, but in America it has not caught on, and it is all about football, especially in Texas, it is all about football.”
Wort went from a virtual unknown to a recruiting giant overnight, and the recruiting process snuck up on him quickly.
“I was not expecting anything this soon. When I was living in Rhode Island I never thought about (playing for) the big schools or anything like that. I was just having fun playing the game,” the Top 100 linebacker said.
“This year I had a real good season, and once my film got out to the colleges I got a lot of offers and a lot of attention. I was not really expecting any of this until after my senior year. I definitely wanted to go division one and play big time college football, but it was something I did not expect because I did not know how the recruiting process worked. ”
“It was exciting at first getting all of the attention. It was something new, but it was overwhelming at times. Your phone would never stop ringing, but it was not too hectic for me. It was actually a lot of fun.”
Wort enjoyed recruiting trips to schools like Texas A&M and LSU, but he felt the strongest connection with Oklahoma, and that connection helped him make the decision to pull the trigger on a verbal commitment to the Sooners.
“I just got a great feeling about the place. It was the place I wanted to go and I wanted to commit to it,” Wort stated. “I am really happy about my decision. Everyplace has great facilities and stuff like that, but I felt comfortable about the character of the people and the coaches at Oklahoma. The feeling I had once I was there, I just knew it was the place I wanted to go.”
“OU is not too far away and this is where my parents plan on staying for awhile. The coaches, the facilities, and the town itself were real impressive. It was everything I could ever want.”
The Wort’s may have been huge soccer fans, but they will now be shouting ‘Boomer Sooner’ alongside 85,000 rabid fans on Saturday afternoons, and Tom will be glad to have them close by, because he gives a lot of the credit for his success because of the way they have supported him over the years.
“My parents have just backed me all of the way and been there for me the entire time,” Wort said with emotion trembling through in his voice. “Football is definitely my sport, and it is definitely their sport now.”
Note: This story originally appeared in the September, 2008
issue of Sooners Illustrated
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