Considering his 6-foot-3, 300-pound frame, it wasn't difficult to spot Gahanna Lincoln senior A'che Sanchez-Baccus the past few years on either the football field or with the track and field program.
It was his attitude, though, that helped the two-sport standout be among the favorites of both football coach Bruce Ward and boys track coach Shawn Johnston.
According to Johnston, Sanchez-Baccus, a shot put specialist, was the "type of guy who comes in from his throws practice and wants to jump into whatever workout the sprinters are doing, just constantly wanting to compete and get better."
Ward also had praise for Sanchez-Baccus, a two-way lineman who moved well for his size.
"He loved telling me, 'Run behind me, coach,'" Ward said. "He always wanted to win no matter what he was doing."
Sanchez-Baccus finished seventh in the shot put in the Division I state indoor meet March 7 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva with a throw of 52 feet, 11 1/4 inches. He hoped to build off of that performance during the outdoor season, but all of the spring sports were canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
In 2018, Sanchez-Baccus threw 53-8 at regional to place fourth before finishing 16th (48-6 3/4) at state. Last spring, he placed fourth in the district 2 meet (50-11 1/4) and seventh at regional (50-9 1/4) to fall three spots shy of qualifying for state, but he was confident that he was on track for a much more successful season this spring.
"I did pretty well indoors and we had a couple weeks of outdoor practice," Sanchez-Baccus said. "Sophomore year, I felt like I took a huge step forward, but junior year I was in a slump. Then this year I felt like I was coming back. I was trying something new last year and it didn't work for me, so when I went back to how I was throwing before, I (got back on track). This year I was improving a lot quicker. Technique-wise, I just got a lot faster with it (this winter), was more flexible and I'm stronger now."
Sanchez-Baccus is headed to West Virginia State to play football. He selected the Division II program out of a group of offers that also included Charleston, which is a fellow Mountain East Conference program, and Ohio Dominican.
He is expected to be a defensive tackle for West Virginia State. Last season, the Yellow Jackets lost to Notre Dame College 31-14 in the MEC championship game to finish 7-4.
After making second-team all-OCC-Ohio Division in 2018 when Gahanna made the Division I, Region 2 playoffs, Sanchez-Baccus was first-team all-league as a senior. In addition to leading a young defense last season, he was second-team all-district on the offensive line as the Lions finished 3-7.
Sanchez-Baccus has come a long way in football after playing in fourth grade but not playing again until he was a seventh-grader because he says he was "horrible."
That changed significantly the past few years.
"One of the things that really made A'che so good was his combination of size, athleticism and desire," Ward said. "He's an athletic athlete. He moved well for his size, but among all that was his desire to be good."
Sanchez-Baccus, whose brother, A'me Baccus, is a sophomore who competes for the boys volleyball program, is considering studying pharmacy and physical therapy in college.
It follows suit with what he says is a desire to help people.
"What has helped A'che become one of the best throwers in the state the past four years is his competitiveness and work ethic," Johnston said. "A'che is the type of guy who is always competing, whether it's academics or athletics. I've been so blessed to be around him these last four years. ... He will always be one of my favorites."