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Cy-Fair LB Patrick Atkinson is Chronicle’s Defensive Player of Year

December 31, 2017 GMT

Cy-Fair has had a bevy of great linebackers, but none in previous years can claim what Patrick Atkinson has: a state championship ring.

Atkinson was phenomenal for the 15-0 Bobcats. The senior Air Force commitment totaled 149 tackles (106 solo), 23 tackles for a loss, 151/2 sacks, nine quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception returned for a touchdown.

But the stats don’t tell the whole story. Atkinson helped rally the team through Hurricane Harvey, a delayed start to the season and having to go through district foe Langham Creek twice.

“He’s been a tremendous leader for us for several years around here, not just this year,” Cy-Fair coach Ed Pustejovksy said. “His work ethic and everything he does is just very positive.”

Q: What were the few days after a winning a state title like for you?

A: I stayed in Dallas that night, and I had family Christmas in Austin the next day. It’s just been wild with everything on Twitter blowing up. I had never done a back flip before, and right after the game, me and the other captains did a back flip together. That was pretty cool.

Q: That was your first back flip?

A: I was high on adrenaline, man. I’ve done it like 10 times since.

Q: Expectations are always high at Cy-Fair, but did you expect this?

A: Before the season, I called a captains meeting at my house. I invited the other four guys over just to discuss leadership and goals. One of the things I discussed was ‘What is our goal this year?’ I went around the table. A couple guys said district championship, win a playoff game. At the end, I was like, ‘My goal is to win the state championship because I know we can.’ Everybody was like, ‘Yeah I want to do that, too.’ But if you ask anybody if they want to win a state championship, everybody is going to say yes. My next discussion point was how we were going to do that. We decided we wanted to do a little more conditioning. After practice for the first week, we did extra conditioning every day.

Q: And after the team made the playoffs?

A: When we won the district championship, I called another captains meeting. Because obviously, we’re going to be playing better teams. I found a whiteboard at my house, and we wrote ‘speak it into existence’ and then ‘state bound.’ It was a checklist: round one, two, three, four, five and a big one at the bottom that said state. There was a place to write the score and check the box off when you win the game. I hung it up in the locker room so it’s a visual thing. It’s right above the doorway. Every time you walk out of the locker room, you can see it and believe in yourself that you can make it the whole way. Every week, we’re checking another box.

Q: What is it like playing defense for this program, which is routinely great on that side of the ball?

A: You come in on Monday and try to learn the formations they’re in, and as a linebacker, I learned what I’m going to call this week, what are the strength calls, what are the coverage calls. I’m always real confused on Monday because there’s so much new stuff to learn. I’m studying it and watch a lot of film and take notes over it. As a defense, I think we all do that. On this defense, we pride ourselves on being the best in the district. I think we’re the best in the state. … Seeing other guys putting it on the line just like you are just makes you want to work harder as a group to get better.

Q: You had to go into the season cold, with Hurricane Harvey canceling scrimmages and your first game. How did you adjust?

A: It was a tough time for everybody around here. Just about everybody on the football team had something with this flooding. The weight room flooded, and as soon as we get back up here, almost the whole football team was up here at the school. We cleaned out the whole weight room, took every piece of weight out and scrubbed it all down so it wouldn’t get rusty. Mopped all the floors, had to clean it all up. As a team, going through something like that … you have a little chip on your shoulder that we had to go through this. Not everybody did. We’re out here. We’re going to win this.

Q: You had to beat a good Langham Creek team twice on the way to a title. How did you rally your unit to face that high-scoring offense?

A: One of the hardest things in any sport is to beat a really good team twice. Because they’re going to have that chip on their shoulder. There was a lot of that going into the game. I had a buddy at Langham Creek who said his main goal in the playoffs was to make it to the regional championship game so they could beat us. Well, dang, how am I going to get my guys to have that same attitude? I told everybody on the team they’re out for us. They want to come get us. So as a team, we worked hard that week. It’s different having film from other teams playing a team and a film of you playing a team. We could really see how it worked. I don’t think we really changed much the second time around.

Q: Are you surprised by your stat line this year?

A: I don’t care what my stat sheet looks like at the end. I care if there’s a W or an L on the schedule. I worked hard in this offseason to get stronger, to get faster, to get better footwork and have eye discipline and fast hands so I could be successful and we could be successful. It turned out well. I had a lot of tackles and a lot of sacks and all that, but my D-Line is influential on all those sacks.

Q: You’re going to Air Force to study aerospace engineering. How did you get into that?

A: I love math and science. When I was in seventh grade, I did this program called Duke TIPs. It’s for middle school students who have high SAT scores. They put on a program for middle school students to take a college course. I went to the University of Kansas, and I took aerospace engineering. I loved it. We got in teams of four and five, and we designed an airplane for four weeks. It was very cool to put all my knowledge of math and science into something.