In what ways does he separate himself from his peers?
What he brings to the table that separates him from most anybody else I’ve ever had – and we put out a few Division I players over the last few years – is that he can probably play anywhere else, excluding the offensive line. Now I know he was recruited as a wideout, but I think at Ohio State he could be an H-back or a tight end. He’s 230 pounds right now without a piece of fat on him and he’s 6-3.5, maybe 6-4 now. He was an all-state type player for us at safety, and he can move up and play linebacker. There were some schools, including Kent State, that thought about putting his hand in the ground and making him a defensive end. There’s a lot of upside to that type of athlete.
How has that versatility helped y’all in the way that y’all have used him?
He obviously tore his ACL, so it came to a devastating end, but we played him at safety because we felt like it gave him free rein to get around the football. He was as good a safety as I’ve seen – very physical, just come down blowing kids up. We used him at wideout, as well, but we would bring him in motion and hand the ball off to him and he’d do whatever he wanted.
How has he handled that injury?
Unbelievably, I think, just in terms of trying to stay positive. He realizes there’s nothing he can do about it other than try to get better and take his time. I think he’s already started his physical therapy. But he’s out there at practice cheering on the guys and he’s not pouting or anything. There’s no depression. Obviously he wishes he were still out there, but I think he’s held his head high and moved on to the next thing, which is to try to rehab and get himself ready for Ohio State.
What is his personality like both on and off the field?
Off the field, he’s a very likeable, gregarious kid. He’s very outgoing and personable. He has no trouble talking to adults. He has no trouble talking to other kids or expressing his feelings. He’s certainly an extrovert. On the field, he becomes more of a fiery competitor. He’s a get after it type of guy. It’s almost like a change, like here’s the nicest kid in the world but it’s on now. He can become pretty nasty when the whistle blows.
Did you have to encourage that or does he flip that switch naturally?
I think he naturally came that way. I’d like to take credit for it, but I can’t.
What are some of the ways that you saw him progress throughout his high school career?
As a ninth grader, he was the biggest and fastest kid and dominated everyone. We brought him up as a 10th grade and he had 75 catches as a wideout. But he needed to learn how to run the routes the correct way, how to read coverages and that type of thing. He’s become fundamentally better, and I think he’s made great strides that way. He’ll continue to improve when he gets to Ohio State.
Is there a play or a performance in either a game or a practice that stands out to you as far as showing what he’s capable of doing?
The last game he played was against Westfield, who was I think in in the top five or six in the state and rated higher than we were. In that game, he singlehandedly kept us in the football game up until his injury. During that game, he ran a kick back 99 yards for a touchdown. On a quarterback sneak, he took the ball by just ripping it out of the quarterback’s hands, grabbed it and raced to the end zone for another 60-yard touchdown. Those types of things and the way he was playing defensively all stand out in my mind.