OHHS Seniors, from left, Griffin DeMilt, Trent Davis, Will Petro, Ricky Wilson, and Kyle Harrison, will all be playing college sports next year. All five took advantage of the offseason conditioning programs during their time at OHHS.
Greg Neuendorf made an example of five senior football players on Apr. 26 at Ottawa Hills High School.
Neuendorf, who teaches physical education, completed his third season as the Green Bears' football coach last fall. The team had six seniors last season and five of them are going to college to play football or lacrosse.
A half-hour ceremony was held for those seniors on Apr. 26 at the high school.
"I want kids, especially the younger guys, to understand this is an attainable goal for them," Neuendorf said. "We do a great job at Ottawa Hills of preparing college prepared academics. My thing is, we're doing college prepared athletics, too. A lot of our younger football and lacrosse kids were (at the ceremony)."
Senior Will Petro, who will play football at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich., was one of the five seniors who were honored.
"It was really cool just to see that the school supported my decision," he said. "They were happy for me and I was very thankful. I couldn't have done it without my coaches and Mr. (Tim) Erickson."
The other seniors who were recognized for moving on to play in college next year were Ricky Wilson, Griffin DeMilt, Trent Davis, and Kyle Harrison. Noah Purnell, who played center and defensive line, was the team's other senior last fall. He and his five classmates played football all four years in high school.
Petro said one reason so many of his classmates will be able to play at the collegiate level is because of the weight training program Neuendorf implemented when the current seniors were sophomores. Neuendorf told the athletes that he used the same offseason conditioning program at his previous coaching stops in Maryland, North Carolina, and suburban Columbus.
"They bought in and worked hard," Neuendorf said of the Ottawa Hills athletes. "Eighty percent of them were able to accomplish their goals. We came in and had a whole new structure for our football program, but anyone was welcome (to participate).
"These (seniors) really bought in. The goal for me was to be able to say to the younger players, 'those guys were sitting in your shoes three or four years ago and look where they are now. You could be there some day.' "
Petro, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound athlete, was recruited to play defensive end at Siena Heights. He said the biggest difference in the weight lifting and conditioning program at Ottawa Hills is the number of participants.
"The biggest difference is the turnout, how many kids (Neuendorf) pushes to come in and be there," Petro said. "Me and Ricky Wilson started lifting back in eighth grade, but when coach Neuendorf came in, there was a big difference in how things were done. It was really efficient and he really turned the program around. It was more serious. The coaches definitely started it and as we grew up, we grew with that mentality. We really got down to business."
Neuendorf said the six graduating seniors were good leaders on and off the field.
"We were in a situation where there was not a lot of volume (in the football program), but they are great players with great character and great role models for the other guys," the coach said. "The work ethic they exuded ... They said, 'Let's not just show up on Aug. 1 and play football. When it gets to football, it's time to strap it up and be focused.'"
Neuendorf said Petro was "probably" the best football player in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference. Petro played fullback and linebacker for the Green Bears but missed three games his junior year because of a shoulder injury. He missed three games last season because of a knee injury.
"If he doesn't get hurt the last two years, we have a chance to win the league," Neuendorf said. He's probably one of the best football players to ever walk these hallways."
Wilson, who played on the offensive and defensive line, will play football at Ohio Northern University in Ada.
"Ricky was probably our toughest player," Neuendorf said. "He played in the trenches and started all four years as an offensive lineman. He's quiet, but tough. He was a rock. He played nose guard and offensive guard and was great at clogging holes up the middle."
Harrison, a two-way lineman, will play football at Baldwin-Wallace University.
"Kyle battled a lot of injuries and fought through a lot of things," Neuendorf said. "He had season-ending knee surgery his sophomore year and he was incredibly resilient coming back from all that stuff."
Davis, who also played on the offensive and defensive lines, will play lacrosse at Baldwin-Wallace. He was a goalie at Ottawa Hills.
"He's probably our smartest football player," Neuendorf said. "He's a brilliant kid, very knowledgeable of the game. He was a great student of the game."
DeMilt, a two-year starter at quarterback, will play lacrosse at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y.
"Griffin is a great leader on the field," Neuendorf said. "He was kind of like a point guard in lacrosse. We put a ton of (responsibility) on our quarterbacks. We run the option, so the quarterback has to make reads on every play. Griffin showed leadership and was our field general."
Neuendorf added that the goal of the school's weight training program - making the athletes bigger, faster and stronger - is paying off.
"They've made incredible strides in their bodies and they all had to play as freshmen and sophomores," he said. "When you're battling in the trenches, there's no substitute for size and strength. We went from getting dominated at the line of scrimmage to where we were dominating at the line of scrimmage."