Not many players get to use not winning the Lombardi Award one year as motivation to get better for the next.
Clinton-Massie’s Jake Garrison did and made good on that motivation.
Garrison became the 45th student-athlete to win the Clinton County Lombardi Award as the down lineman of the year. The presentation was made at the 43rd annual banquet held Tuesday night at the Expo Center on the Clinton County Fairgrounds.
“I took it (last year) personal,” said Garrison, who was 1st team All-Ohio in 2014 and 2nd team All-Ohio in 2015. “I kinda said I want to win it next year. It’s like you have to work harder (if you want to win it). It’s really a great honor to win it.”
George Rise, former longtime coach at both Blanchester and Goshen high schools, was the keynote speaker for the event. He presented Garrison with the award.
Nominees for the award in addition to Garrison were Clinton-Massie’s JP Cantrell, Wilmington’s Zane Stevens and Briten Kessler, East Clinton’s Travis Knell and DJ Luttrell (who was unable to attend because he is a member of the varsity basketball team) and Blanchester’s Jed Turpin and Matt Burden.
“I wouldn’t trade these last 4 years for anything,” Garrison said. “Just the people I’ve been around, the coaching staff. We had an overall record of 52-4, a lot of people can’t say that. It was just a great experience. I loved every minute of it.”
The Falcons won back-to-back state titles when Garrison was a freshman and sophomore. The expectations the last 2 years were high but Garrison is used to that. At 6-3, 285, he’s always been the biggest kid on the team.
“After winning 2 (state titles) your first 2 years of high school, you get spoiled by it,” he said. “It’s still a great accomplishment. I wouldn’t trade these (last) 2 teams for anything.
“I was always pretty much the biggest kid on the team. I just go out there and do my thing. I play my game and try to do the best I can every play, every snap.”
Rise was raised in Latrobe, Pa. and graduated high school there in 1963. His keynote address was humorous and complimentary of the down linemen in attendance.
“There’s no greater compliment for a young man than to be called a linemen,” said Rise. “I coached when toughness was a desired trait.
“I bought a blocking dummy for my grandson for Christmas because he’s going to be a lineman. I told my daughter this is the best Christmas gift I’ve ever bought.”
Many of the coaches who spoke had a connection in some way with Rise. But it was Rise who spoke highly of a former coach who almost never misses a Lombardi banquet, Bill Ramseyer and his wife Mary. The Rises recently purchased a home near the Ramseyers in South Carolina.
“When you are in your 70s you can still have heroes and inspirations,” said Rise. “Bill and Mary are my heroes.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.