2018 was an amazing year for the London Red Raider Football team. And while every program has it's ups/downs and challenges, I'm especially proud of every player who made the commitment to this team.
Before I list the newest post-season honors, I want to remind everyone that these awards are incredibly rare. However, just because a player's name isn't listed doesn't mean their contribution didn't matter. I watched "average" teenage boys become headhunters; boys that are taking their first steps into becoming Men of Action. In a few years, I hope they can take the lessons of aggression, leadership and action and put them to good use for themselves, their family/friends and where ever their lives take them. Just because football is over doesn't mean you become soft; it means you double down and become harder.
Enough with the diatribe! Let's get to the 2018 Div IV All-Ohio Team (that's Division 4 for all you philistines).
Bricker Thiel - First Team Defense, Linebacker
Yes, that's the best football name in the world. Bricker was one of the first players I actually coached on the field prior to being the full-time strength coach. He was also the leader of this team, both through words and actions. I could tell a hundred awesome stories about Bricker that I've shared. This is not an exaggeration; I have friends that love Bricker stories. But the one that stands out more than any is this: this entire off-season, Bricker did all his DL workout with a 50lbs weight vest on. Every single set and rep and all the assistance work was done with a 50lbs weight vest. Him and fellow senior Nick Schooley. One day this year, I was talking with Bricker and he asked me if I trained today. I said "Yes, I deadlifted."
"Did you wear a weight vest?"
Bricker than looked at me like I was the biggest weakling on earth. By the way, in 8 months Bricker's trap bar DL went from 405x5 (sans vest) to 405x15 (with vest) and 505x5 (with vest). During the playoffs, I saw him pick up a kid and throw him at a ball carrier. In other words, the ball carrier was tackled by his flying teammate. After that play, Bricker hit one of the finest "most muscular" poses I have seen to date.
KJ Price - First Team Offense, Running Back
If anyone has followed London Football, you know his name. As a junior, KJ rushed for about a million yards (close to 3,000 I believe) and is literally a human highlight film. This year, KJ was a marked man but it made no difference. He had less carries due to having an amazing counterpart at the other running back position, but he averaged over 13 yards/carry and rushed for over 2,000 yards. KJ is not a big back; I don't know if he weighs over 165lbs. But this kid ran harder and tougher than any running back I've seen since Trung Canidate. KJ is incredibly fast but his acceleration is insane and his willingness to drop his head and punish people is as good as I've ever seen. And that includes big backs.
Despite all his accolades, KJ remains more humble than any "big star" that I've ever seen.
The one thing that stands out to me for KJ is his unselfishness. KJ was one of our few players that didn't start on both offense and defense. This was not because of lack of ability; he was such a huge part of our offense that we didn't want to risk it. However, he often played the Rush Defensive End position, defensive back or whatever we needed him to. And somehow, KJ always made the play, no matter what was asked of him. During one game, KJ not only led the team in rushing, he also tied Bricker for the lead in tackles with limited defensive snaps.
After every game, I'd text Matt Rhodes and try to explain the game that KJ had. Somehow any way you tell it, words don't do it justice.
Jack Gould - First Team Offense, Center
My first year at London I had two guinea pigs for training; these were two kids that I would experiment my stupid training ideas on. Jack was one of these guinea pigs. He was a sophomore at the time and didn't play on varsity, at least not that much. Thus him being sore didn't matter much; well, at least to me. I'm sure it did to him. Because of his willingness to do whatever it took, he's largely responsible for creation of our off-season/in-season training program. He worked his ass off in the off-season and was set to be, at best, a starter. At worst, he would play a massive contributing role. Two or three days into two-a-days, Jack quit football. I don't know why, I don't want to know why and it's not my business.
The first day of the off-season for the next football season, Jack shows up and puts on his game face. No excuses. No complaining. Jack chose to use his actions to prove he belonged. After a few months of getting his body back in shape, it was a relentless pursuit to become more than human. It took a huge pair of knick-knacks to come back and work like he did.
During one game, I'm watching our offense mow down the opponent and we are running a play to the left. I'm watching one of our running backs and out of the corner of my eye, on the far right side of the field I see a couple of players. I turn my head and there is Jack, driving his defender all the way across the field and eventually folding him in half. You've got 20 players on the left side of the field and Jack is taking it personally that the guy he was charged to block would even think about making a play.
About 3/4 of the way through the season, I was talking with our offensive coordinator and asked him how Jack was doing. His response was that in the decades of coaching, he's had 3 great centers and Jack is as good as any one of them. And all 3 of these players received big scholarships to play football in college. Jack isn't the biggest guy out there (6' 270lbs) but I wouldn't want to fight him. To sum it up, Jack Gould plays angry.
Brennan Spiess, Second Team, Running Back
Of all four of the players, I know the least about Brennan. Brennan came to play at London his senior year and I knew little about him; generally coaches get to know the players during the off-season and I didn't have that luxury. But Brennan made short work of any questions I had. This kid is easily one of the most polite, hard working and best athletes I've ever seen. I don't use any of these terms lightly; this kid can play football and is the most respectful kid I've seen. You can tell his dad is a coach (his father was our offensive coordinator this year).
Brennan is probably the best self-starter I've seen; I talked with his dad about his training and diet and this kid is a student of his craft. Hell, yesterday I was talking to him about training and he was remarking about some of the stupid stuff he was made to do. And in that conversation, and probably without really knowing exactly why, he touched on how much more effective sub-max training is. And then says, "How can you expect a young kid to max out? They can barely do the movement."
I'm paraphrasing here but you get it. Brennan immediately fell in with our players in the weight room and I didn't have to coach him up; him, Bricker, Nick Schooley and Jack Gould formed the MeatHead group in our weight room. He fit right in.
On the field, Brennan was a force on both offense and defense. His size allows him to play both linebacker and his speed allows him to play as a defensive back. In college, I see him as a safety and I have no doubt that he is going to make things happen.
Understand that Brennan stepped into a challenging situation; senior year at a high school, knows no one and doesn't really know what is going to happen. Even with KJ getting over 2,000 yards rushing, Brennan rushed for more than 1,300 yards and was a huge impact player on defense. Having him in coverage or having contain responsibilities made everything easier. I don't know if any player on our team played more snaps than Brennan.
Despite their football prowess, all four of these guys were genuinely good people. I would like to thank their parents for raising such great kids and entrusting me with their training. I understand how important teachers, coaches, mentors are to kids and I do not take this lightly. Thank you.
One piece of advice to all our seniors - this part of your life is done. Remember it, cherish it but move forward NOW. "Success is a springboard, not a hammock."