Teamwork is a key component in the makeup of Connor Damron.

The Bexley High School senior enjoys it so much as a member of the football program that he was looking for more. He recently took the oath to become a member of the Army National Guard.

The 5-foot-11, 171-pounder starts at fullback and middle linebacker for the Lions. He said football and being a member of the National Guard go hand in hand.

"I joined the (National) Guard because I enjoy being part of a team," Damron said. "It's relying on someone to help you get through something. That's what I enjoy the most.

"I knew through football that you take orders, you do what you have to do and you work together as a team to get things done. But it helps because you are told what to do and you do it in football. It's basically the same in the Army. You do what you are told and you execute."

First-year coach Nathan Castorena said Damron is the epitome of what a teammate should be.

"Connor has been a model player since the day I got here," Castorena said. "Once we started working out in the summer, he was here every day and worked his butt off in the weight room. He's mentally and physically strong and is great in terms of leading by example. You can build a foundation with program players like that. He's always at the right place at the right time and is always looking out for his teammates."

Damron took his military oath July 7. He said there are several benefits to being in the National Guard beyond the teamwork experience.

"The job I'm training in, which is (information technology), I get an extra (pay stipend), which is good," Damron said. "Plus, it will pay 100 percent of my college tuition and that's something that's very attractive.

"We have (National Guard) training on the last Saturday and Sunday of every month. We have our games on Friday night and we watch film on Saturday, so coach allows me to miss film to go there as long as I watch it later. Also, the drill sergeants know I have football games the night before and they take it a little easier on athletes during physical portions of the training during the season."

Damron had a fumble recovery as the Lions lost to Hamilton Township 44-28 on Sept. 8 to drop to 0-3. Last season, they finished the regular season 10-0 for the first time, won a second consecutive MSL-Ohio Division title and earned a fourth consecutive playoff berth.

It's been a tough start to the season, but Damron is staying upbeat for his teammates. It's his role as a leader.

"Basically in the past, I have learned what I have learned from the older guys and now I want to be a role model for them on the field, in the classroom, anywhere," said Damron, who also is a sprinter with the track and field program. "(I want to be) someone they can look up to and say 'He's doing it right, and I want to be more like him.' "

As a two-way player, Damron rarely leaves the field because of Bexley's small roster. He said the National Guard training has helped to keep him fresh during games.

"Some days I prefer offense and some days I prefer defense, but I do enjoy defense because I get to do the hitting," he said. "Playing middle linebacker on defense and helping to control the defense has helped me become more of a leader by telling guys what to do. I help them if they have a question (and) I do my best to answer it."

Castorena said Damron has a hard-nosed mentality that is on display every time he takes the field.

"He's a guy on offense or defense that does a lot of the dirty work," Castorena said. "He thrives on the pressure that goes with playing (his) positions. He is a kid working in the trenches on offense and coming up to tackle kids that are bigger than he is. He just embraces those roles."

On Friday, Sept. 15, Bexley plays its MSL-Ohio opener against visiting Liberty Union, which improved to 2-1 by defeating Amanda-Clearcreek 35-31 on Sept. 8.

Damron said it's time for the Lions to come together.

"When you have guys you get along with well off the field, you get along on the field," said Damron, who has not made a college selection and does not plan to play at the next level. "Having a sense of community with the guys is important and our season is still young.

"Last year we had a fantastic senior class, and now we need guys to step up. Anyone can step up, and it's up to the seniors to step up and lead the guys."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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