All-Decade Super 25 Football Team: Versatile athletes stood out from peers
The first two installments of the "All-Decade Super 25 Team" showed talent has been found everywhere on the football field in central Ohio, with skill-position players, pass rushers and offensive linemen among those honored.
We have a common theme this week: athleticism.
In step with how we have honored central Ohio's best since 1993, this five-part series recognizes 25 players who competed for schools in the ThisWeek coverage area, consisting of Franklin County and parts of Fairfield and Delaware counties.
You might remember the ESPN.com story in 2016 about this Pickerington North graduate.
It included a picture of him and several members of his family wearing shirts that joked about all the different ways their last name could be used, with the headline, "Yes, Michigan's Jake Butt realizes his last name is funny."
He learned long ago to turn what could have been construed as a negative into such a positive that it even got him a spot on "The Tonight Show."
About the only things that have slowed him down recently are knee injuries, one of which took place in Michigan's Orange Bowl game Dec. 30, 2016. It caused him to drop several rounds in the NFL draft after he had been projected to go in the second round. Butt earned the John Mackey Award for being the nation's best tight end that season.
His future in the NFL remains uncertain after he had another knee injury in 2018 that kept him out all of last season, but there was a time when athletically things weren't so complicated for him.
From 2010-12, Butt hardly left the field for a North program that was just beginning to emerge.
He had 14.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2010 while also seeing time at linebacker, and he was even better a year later, accumulating 16.5 tackles for loss and 27 receptions.
It's tough to imagine that anyone could have performed in his particular roles on offense and defense any better than Butt did during his senior season.
He had 68 catches for 907 yards and 12 touchdowns at tight end and finished with 8.5 tackles for loss and 80 tackles while splitting time between defensive line and linebacker in 2012, helping the Panthers go 12-2 and reach a Division I state semifinal in what remains their greatest season.
He rarely gave opponents, particularly at the prep level, a reason to laugh.
With a combination of a veteran coaching staff and a series of game-changing athletes, Walnut Ridge has emerged in recent years as one of the City League's premier programs.
Harrison was among the players who helped the Scots begin to pick up steam when he emerged as a key player from 2013-15.
The biggest quandary for coach Byron Mattox and his staff at that time was figuring out how best to use such a game-changing athlete.
Although he was listed at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Harrison was clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash and was the City long-jump champion as a senior.
Those physical characteristics made him a prototypical linebacker at the college level and he wound up having a standout career at Ohio State, setting him up to be selected in the third round of this year's NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
This type of talent doesn't come around every day at the prep level, and Mattox knew it.
He had Harrison play quarterback as a sophomore, and Harrison threw seven touchdown passes and rushed for five scores as the Scots went 7-3.
Harrison spent time at linebacker as a junior while also being at the center of the offense, as he rushed for 1,087 yards and 15 touchdowns, threw for seven scores and kept things steady as his recruiting took off.
By his senior season in 2015, Harrison was the area's most well-rounded star, producing 17 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards combined passing and rushing while recording eight sacks, eight tackles for loss and four forced fumbles on defense. He even averaged 38.2 yards per punt and 33 yards on kickoff returns.
The Scots went 7-3 that year, but having players like Harrison come through set up the program for its current three-year run in which it has gone a combined 29-5.
"We like to get football players like him who are willing to play offense, defense or pretty much anything we want," Mattox said.
During Mike Golden's 30 seasons as a prep coach, he's led five programs and won more than two-thirds of his games.
Golden led Watterson to a Division III state champion-ship, coached at Upper Arlington from 2005-13 and eventually battled and beat throat and lung cancer.
His comments have credence.
It was going into his 27th season when Golden said he may have coached his best player in Tucky.
Another thing that's striking about what Golden said is Tucky played for Delaware Hayes, a program that lost its only playoff game in 2008. The Pacers went just 15-25 from 2014-17 under Golden, who coached Tucky for his final two prep seasons.
Tucky gained experience at linebacker as a freshman, led the Pacers in tackles and sacks as a sophomore and then was looked at as the main force for a 3-7 team as a junior, as he rushed for 704 yards on 111 carries, caught 18 passes and scored 13 touchdowns at running back. Defensively, he had 112 tackles, including 19 for loss, and 10 sacks.
The Pacers were on the brink of being a good team during his senior season in 2015, losing one game by four points and another in overtime before winning three of their final four to finish 5-5.
Tucky did all he could, rushing for 734 yards and scoring eight touchdowns and totaling 102 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.
He's become a key linebacker for a University of Cincinnati team that has won back-to-back bowl games.
"He obviously has great skills, but his motor is 100 percent, 100 percent of the time," Golden said. "That's what sets him apart."
During the early part of longtime Eastmoor Academy coach Jim Miranda's tenure, the Warriors featured an electric running back named Isaiah Pead who became the school's all-time leading rusher in 2007 and went on to play in the NFL.
This is the same program that in the early 1970s produced a name you might recognize: two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.
Almost directly in the middle of those standouts was a 5-9, 160-pounder named Savon Edwards, who led Eastmoor to the playoffs while rushing for 1,407 yards and 18 touchdowns in 1993.
From 2016-18, Edwards' son, also named Savon, was like a hybrid of those three.
At just 5-7, 165, Edwards Jr. was closer to his father and to Griffin in size.
While Edwards Jr. scored 29 touchdowns with seven two-point conversions as a junior and rushed for 32 touchdowns as a senior in 2018, compiling nearly 4,000 yards those two seasons, his speed and ability to impact all parts of the field rarely have been matched by anyone wearing an Eastmoor uniform.
He started all four of his seasons in the defensive backfield and was particularly tough to stop on special teams, returning two punts for touchdowns as a sophomore and three for scores while averaging 33.7 yards per return as a junior.
With his father serving as an assistant coach, Edwards Jr. battled a shoulder injury but helped the Warriors reach a state semifinal for just the second time in program history in 2018.
"You think he's stopped, but somehow he squirts free from the pile and breaks away for a big gain," Miranda told The Columbus Dispatch in 2018. "Sometimes he goes inside and then back outside. I've never seen anyone so elusive. He just makes so many plays in so many different ways."
There's still plenty of room in the prep game for a running quarterback.
Unlike in college or pro football, where the speed of a blitzing linebacker or a rushing end can neutralize a quarterback's ability once he gets out of the pocket, prep quarterbacks with enough speed are more likely to get through holes when they decide to run.
Byrd is the perfect example.
During his junior season in 2017, the 6-0, 175-pounder made the full-time transition to quarterback in a read-option system designed to utilize his athleticism after previously also seeing time at wide receiver.
After making second-team all-league as a sophomore in 2016 when Whitehall made the playoffs for the first time since 2003, Byrd responded by rushing for 1,628 yards and 24 touchdowns and passing for 1,131 yards and 14 scores while earning third-team all-state honors in 2017.
Byrd, by the way, couldn't have been much better in the Rams' 42-35 loss to New Albany that ended that season in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs, as he rushed for 321 yards and three touchdowns and threw for two scores.
Whitehall had the misfortune of being in one of the state's toughest regions that year.
Byrd was even harder to stop in his final prep season in 2018, rushing for 1,784 yards and 26 touchdowns to go along with throwing for 1,109 yards and eight scores.
Before losing to eventual state runner-up Massillon Washington in the second round of the Region 7 playoffs to finish 10-2, the Rams upset undefeated Dover 38-31 for just the fifth postseason win in program history.
As was the case throughout most of his prep career, Byrd was in the middle of the action against Dover, scoring the winning touchdown.
"When the ball is in Raymell's hands, anything can happen," coach Rod Lightfoot said.