Harleton senior Jaydn Salazar sees a lot of action on both sides of the ball as a tight end and a defensive end, the positions his two favorite NFL players happen to play.

“Defensively, I really study J.J. Watt because that’s my defensive spot,” Salazar said. “I really like to watch him and before I ever played football, I liked to watch Jason Witten and I think that’s really why I fell into the tight end position. Those are my two favorite players.”

Watt and Witten are both fan favorites who are looked at as leaders and hard workers, much like what Harleton head coach Kyle Little says of Salazar.

“He’s a defensive end/tight end,” Little said. “He’s a good senior leader. He doesn’t come off the field. He plays every snap, offense and defense. He’s a very tough, hard-nosed kid. He’s not much of a vocal leader, just a leader by example but he is all out on every play and he has been playing some really good football on both sides for us. He was our player of the week the other week.”

Prior to the game, the Harleton senior likes to listen to a Hall of Fame linebacker.

“I always listen to Ray Lewis’ motivational speeches,” Salazar said. “Those really get me. You’ve got to get your mind right before the game. Just sit there and don’t really talk but just think about what’s going to happen in the game.”

The Wildcats’ next game is tonight, when they play host to Union Grove.

“They basically run the same offense as we do,” Little said of the Lions. “They’re a slot-t, we’re a wing-t but it’s the same family. We have to stop the run. They run the ball a lot so we’re going to have to stop the run and play good defense. We need to keep the ball offensively to keep their offense on the sideline.”

Salazar hopes to give the Harleton fans something to celebrate.

“Our fans have been really loyal, even through the bad years but especially now that we’re going somewhere, it really gives us a lot of motivation just hearing all the fans in the stands because it’s so packed,” he said.

The Wildcats will have their work cut out from them as they go up against a 3-0 Lions team but Harleton, which owns a 2-1 record, has already improved from a year ago.

“There’s no way to describe going from 1-9 to winning two games this early,” Salazar said. “Really, as a team, we’re believing in ourselves and our coach tells us not to listen to any noise, even if someone is telling us, ‘good job,’ because it’s early and we’re a young team that isn’t used to winning. So he tells us to just worry about ourselves. I think since we aren’t used to winning, and if we start winning, it’s really easy for us to get complacent, like, ‘Oh, we’ve already won two games. We’ve never done that before,’ but I think if we keep pushing ourselves, and I think we will, then we’ll do a lot better than the last four years.”

Tonight’s game between Union Grove and Harleton is the final non-district game for the Wildcats. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.