As a sophomore, Martesse Patterson decided to give high school football a try for the first time.
Two years later -- and after adding enough muscle to weigh about 300 pounds -- the Marion-Franklin senior was one of just six Central District players from the 2014 recruiting class to sign with a Big Ten school on national signing day Feb. 5.
"I just started lifting heavy weights and eating, and my coaches were telling me I could be a Division I athlete," said the 6-foot-5 Patterson, an offensive lineman who signed with Purdue.
Lancaster's Kyle Trout and Ready's Brady Taylor signed with Ohio State as offensive linemen and Walnut Ridge's Robert Bowers signed with Michigan State at defensive end, meaning two-thirds of the area's Big Ten signees were linemen.
Combine that group with area standouts like Olentangy Liberty's Luke Callahan (Cincinnati) and Westerville Central's Nick Richardson (Kentucky), and it clearly was a standout year for offensive linemen, according to Hilliard Bradley coach Mike LoParo.
His Jaguars had two Division I recruits on the offensive line in Skylar Hartley (Buffalo) and Ryan Beveridge (Air Force).
"When we'd go into each week, it would always seem like a couple linemen would (stand out) on the film," LoParo said. "(Richardson) might have been the best I saw. It seemed like the year of the linemen."
Central Ohio's ability to produce linemen is indicative of how college coaches find talent, according to Westerville Central coach John Magistro.
"It's hard to find good linemen, especially defensive linemen," he said. "You can go to Texas and Florida and they're rich in skill position guys because of the weather and other factors. (College recruiters) are always looking for good linemen. The first thing they're looking for is size, especially height. I don't know if it's the offenses or defenses we run, but the coaching in central Ohio is so good."
Also signing with Big Ten schools were Newark Catholic's Chayce Crouch (QB/P) with Illinois and Upper Arlington's Chris Frey (LB) with Michigan State.
•ETSU CONNECTION -- After Pickerington North's Tony Welch and Dylan Weigel verbally committed in January to play for the re-started East Tennessee State football program, it wasn't long before another central Ohio standout followed suit.
Westerville Central quarterback Jared Drake, the Division I district Offensive Player of the Year last fall, also had offers from Indiana State and Duquesne but decided on ETSU even though it won't play its first official game until 2015.
ETSU fielded a team from 1920-2003 before disbanding the program.
"They heard about me through one of the Pickerington guys," said Drake, who also will be joined by New Albany's Trey Quillin. "I've always felt like I was a southern country boy stuck in Ohio."
This fall, ETSU will play about a half dozen exhibition games against club teams, according to Drake.
Each member of ETSU's 2014 class still will have four years of eligibility beginning in 2015.
•STAYING CLOSE TO HOME -- One of the last central Ohio football players to commit was Westerville Central defensive back Eldin Anu, who announced his decision to go to Kent State on Feb. 3, two days before signing.
Anu was one of 11 players from the area to commit to Ohio schools.
Eight players signed with Mid-American Conference schools in the state, as Kent State reeled in three, Bowling Green and Ohio University each had two and Toledo signed one.
•OP STRIKES AGAIN -- For the last several years, the Ohio Premier girls soccer club has had most of its players sign to play with Division I colleges.
The 2014 class features 13 players who will compete collegiately led by Dublin Coffman's Sam Edwards, who signed with Ohio State. Edwards was ThisWeek Super 12 captain and the district's Division I Player of the Year each of the last two seasons. Coffman's Brynn Schlemitz also signed with Ohio State, while high school teammates Amanda Stratton and Jesse Schaefer, who also played for OP, committed to Lehigh and St. John's, respectively.
Thomas Worthington's Nya Cason, who didn't play at the prep level the last two years, signed with Ohio State after competing for OP.
Worthington Kilbourne's Celeste Fushimi-Karns (Ohio), Watterson's Ellie Ganz (Wright State), Columbus Academy's Katerina Weikert (Cornell) and Stratton all joined Edwards on the ThisWeek Super 12 last fall.
•CREW CELEBRATION -- The number of athletes who signed after competing for the Crew Academy program reached double digits for the second consecutive year.
Hilliard Darby's Nate Kohl signed with Michigan, and Hilliard Davidson's Noah Hutchins and Dublin Jerome's Andrew McKelvey signed with Kentucky. Dublin Scioto's Brady Blackwell will travel the farthest among the players, to San Diego State.
From the girls program, Olentangy Liberty's Julia Bruno and Pickerington Central's Rachel Koch signed with Miami University and Marshall, respectively.
•NEXT LEVEL -- Below are area high school seniors who have announced their Division I college signings to ThisWeek. Also listed are football players who have signed with schools in the Football Championship Subdivision:
BASEBALL (10) – Kyle Casserly (Pickerington Central) West Virginia; Hunter Clanin (Ready) Bowling Green; Jason Foster (Ready) Wright State; Nate Green (Hilliard Darby) Oakland; Hunter Nance (Newark Catholic) Bowling Green; Nick Newton (Olentangy Liberty) Marshall; Jacob Niggemeyer (Olentangy Liberty) Ohio State; Nick Pauley (Thomas Worthington) Wright State; Evan White (Gahanna) Kentucky; Jared Yoakam (Marysville) Cincinnati
BOYS BASKETBALL (4) – Javon Bess (Gahanna) Michigan State; Connor Kern (Pickerington Central) Arkansas State; Jae’Sean Tate (Pickerington Central) Ohio State; Kevin Vannatta (Upper Arlington) UNC-Asheville
GIRLS BASKETBALL (12) – Morgan Bassett-Smith (Pickerington North) New Hampshire; Marissa Brown (Hartley) Youngstown State; Alexa Hart (Africentric) Ohio State; Aajah Hawkins (Pickerington Central) Florida International; Amari Hawkins (Pickerington Central) Florida International; Brittany Johnson (Pickerington North) Quinnipiac; Andi Norman (Upper Arlington) Dartmouth; Nicole Orr (Reynoldsburg) Butler; Alexis Parks (Africentric) Western Michigan; Alyssa Rice (Reynoldsburg) Kentucky; Darianne Seward (Africentric) Detroit Mercy; Jordan Toohey (Pickerington North) Radford
GIRLS CREW (4) – McKenna Moore (Westerville South) Syracuse; Elizabeth Schilling (Dublin Coffman) Buffalo; Bridget Schodorf (Upper Arlington) Ohio State; Meredith Swartz (Columbus School for Girls) Notre Dame
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY AND TRACK & FIELD (7) – Andrew Johnston (Olentangy Liberty) Air Force; Garrett Knapik (Hilliard Davidson) Xavier; Mitchell Leitch (Dublin Jerome) Ohio State; Jack Lint (Columbus Academy) Virginia; Jake Mandel (Dublin Jerome) Ohio State; Eric McCabe (Hilliard Darby) Akron; Josh Wojciechowski (Olentangy Liberty) Arkansas State
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY AND TRACK & FIELD (3) – Nicey Bauman (Olentangy) Georgia Tech; Annette Echikunwoke (Pickerington North) Cincinnati; Ashley Forte (Thomas Worthington) Princeton
GIRLS EQUESTRIAN (1) – Shelby Friday (Dublin Coffman) South Carolina
FIELD HOCKEY (3) – Carly Anson (Dublin Coffman) Bellarmine; Katie Lemieux (Dublin Coffman) Ohio State; Kate Meeks (Dublin Coffman) Davidson
FOOTBALL (45) – Eldin Anu (Westerville Central) Kent State; Alex Backenstoe (Hilliard Davidson) Air Force; Ryan Beveridge (Hilliard Bradley) Air Force; Robert Bowers (Walnut Ridge) Michigan State; Luke Callahan (Olentangy Liberty) Cincinnati; Torrodd Carter (Westerville South) Eastern Kentucky; Jhustus Cornley (Northland) Indiana State; Chayce Crouch (Newark Catholic) Illinois; Micky Crum (Hamilton Township) Louisville; Jared Drake (Westerville Central) East Tennessee State; Brennan Dudziak (Pickerington Central) Ohio U.; Chris Frey (Upper Arlington) Michigan State; Ben Hale (St. Charles) Bowling Green; Skylar Hartley (Hilliard Bradley) Buffalo; Seth Hill (Worthington Kilbourne) Air Force; Tyrell Howard (New Albany) Air Force; Darryl Long (Westerville South) Kentucky; Tommy Mansfield (Westerville Central) Colgate; Andrew Meyer (Pickerington Central) Ohio U.; Zeph Miller (Pickerington North) Air Force; Curtis Mitchell (Westerville South) Colgate; Kalil Morris (Hartley) Kent State; Phillipie Motley (Hilliard Davidson) Pittsburgh; Martesse Patterson (Marion-Franklin) Purdue; Zack Popovec (Hilliard Bradley) Davidson; Nathan Puthoff (St. Charles) Kent State; Trey Quillin (New Albany) East Tennessee State; Ryan Reffitt (Hilliard Bradley) Air Force; Nick Richardson (Westerville Central) Kentucky; Griff Saunders (DeSales) Bowling Green; Alonzo Saxton (Hartley) Duke; Jeremiah Shaw (Westerville Central) Cornell; Joe Siegenthaler (New Albany) Lehigh; Andy Simms (Olentangy) Colgate; Noah Spielman (Upper Arlington) Toledo; Andy Struttmann (Westerville North) Duquesne; Akili Taylor (Ready) Navy; Brady Taylor (Ready) Ohio State; Aaron Tiller (Licking Heights) Southern; Dylan Weigel (Pickerington North) East Tennessee State; Tony Welch (Pickerington North) East Tennessee State; Jalen Wells (Thomas Worthington) St. Francis (Pa.); Collin Wittig (Delaware) Duquesne; Tucker Yinger (DeSales) Dayton; Matt Yoho (Ready) Morehead State
BOYS GOLF (5) – Justin Arens (Westerville South) Austin Peay; Brady Bohl (Dublin Jerome) Ohio U.; Cameron Michalak (Grove City Christian) Bowling Green; Scot Sapp (Pickerington North) Cincinnati; Nick Sparling (Dublin Coffman) Ohio State
GIRLS GOLF (2) – Charley Benefield (Dublin Coffman) Lipscomb; Kylie Raines (Dublin Coffman) Eastern Michigan
GYMNASTICS (1) – Katie Carlisle (Newark) Kentucky
BOYS LACROSSE (6) – Shawn Ewert (Dublin Jerome) Jacksonville; Brandon Jones (Upper Arlington) Air Force; Chase Rose (Dublin Jerome) Robert Morris; Austin Seiple (Dublin Coffman) Ohio State; J.B. Smith (Dublin Jerome) Fairfield; Michael Turnbull (Worthington Kilbourne) Detroit Mercy
GIRLS LACROSSE (4) – Liza Carey (Thomas Worthington) San Diego State; Sarah Dawley (Bexley) Duquesne; Rebecca Keane (Olentangy Orange) St. Francis; Armonde Moore (Upper Arlington) Cincinnati
BOYS SOCCER (13) – Silankonet Bayo (Columbus Alternative) Wright State; Aidan Bean (Olentangy Liberty) Dayton; Brady Blackwell (Dublin Scioto) San Diego State; Joey Cipicchio (Worthington Kilbourne) Brown; Devin Collins (Olentangy Liberty) Wright State; Christian Grimme (Gahanna) Johns Hopkins; Drew Hicks (St. Charles) VMI; Noah Hutchins (Hilliard Davidson) Kentucky; Nate Kohl (Hilliard Darby) Michigan; Michael McCloskey (Olentangy Liberty) Cincinnati; Andrew McKelvey (Dublin Jerome) Kentucky; Hunter Robertson (Westerville Central) Ohio State; John Schuman (Upper Arlington) Wake Forest
GIRLS SOCCER (17) – Julia Bruno (Olentangy Liberty) Miami University; Cara Calland (Westerville South) Indiana State; Nya Cason (Thomas Worthington) Ohio State; Christy Chou (Dublin Jerome) Butler; Mikaela Couch (Westerville South) Bowling Green; Sam Edwards (Dublin Coffman) Ohio State; Celeste Fushimi-Karns (Worthington Kilbourne) Ohio U.; Ellie Ganz (Watterson) Wright State; Rachel Koch (Pickerington Central) Marshall; Marissa Martin (Dublin Jerome) Youngstown State; Chiara Paradiso (Upper Arlington) Toledo; Brista Phillips (Westerville Central) Illinois; Jesse Schaefer (Dublin Coffman) St. John’s; Brynn Schlemitz (Dublin Coffman) Ohio State; Amanda Stratton (Dublin Coffman) Lehigh; Katerina Weikert (Columbus Academy) Cornell; Christina Williams (Pickerington North) Toledo
SOFTBALL (10) – Manda Cash (Worthington Kilbourne) Dayton; Michaela Dorsey (Central Crossing) Ohio U.; Kaitlyn Gliha (New Albany) Miami University; Madison Kadlic (Olentangy Liberty) Elon; Hannah Lucas (Pickerington North) Youngstown State; Allie Luther (Pickerington Central) Kent State; Paige McMenemy (Westerville Central) Akron; Sidney Melton (Hartley) Louisville; Hannah Murphy (Pickerington North) Morehead State; Abby Rhodes (Central Crossing) Morehead State
BOYS SWIMMING & DIVING (1) – Thomas Trace (Upper Arlington) Ohio State
GIRLS SWIMMING & DIVING (11) – Brittany Anderson (Wellington) Michigan; Olivia Bell (Olentangy Liberty) Georgia; Morgan Belli (Gahanna) Kentucky; Madeline Grubbe (Watterson) Toledo; Maggie Heller (Dublin Jerome) Pennsylvania; Jamie Krupp (Upper Arlington) Wright State; Brittany Menninger (Olentangy Liberty) Ohio State; Brittany Puthoff (Delaware) Toledo; Betsy Trace (Upper Arlington) Eastern Michigan; Elizabeth Weldon (Upper Arlington) Davidson; Meghan Wilson (Upper Arlington) Wright State
BOYS TENNIS (1) – Stephen Miller (New Albany) Toledo
GIRLS TENNIS (2) – Lauren Ghidotti (Watterson) Xavier; Anna Sanford (Olentangy Orange) Ohio State
GIRLS VOLLEYBALL (3) – Kenya Cason (DeSales) Connecticut; Lauren Frilling (Watterson) Xavier; Jessie Wachtman (Pickerington North) Morehead State