It’s the ultimate honor for a high school football player in Ohio.
Or is it the ultimate jinx?
The Mr. Football award has been given annually to Ohio’s best player since 1987. The results have been mixed, but the majority of Mr. Football winners never panned out as college gridiron stars. There are exceptions, of course, but most of the players never quite lived up to the label.
1987: Ronald “Buster” Howe, Zanesville
The inaugural winner of the award was Buster Howe, a 5-11, 182-pound all-purpose star.
As a senior in 1987, he rushed for 1,795 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and scored 34 touchdowns. As a single wing back, he added 431 passing yards. He also had eight interceptions, three field goals, 38 extra points and averaged 40.9 yards per punt.
Yes, he could do it all.
Howe was a member of John Cooper’s first recruiting class at Ohio State. He was recruited as a running back, but never carried the ball for the Buckeyes.
Howe was a Prop 48 casualty in 1988 and had to sit out his first season at OSU.
As a sophomore in 1989, things didn’t get much better.
“It just didn’t work out for me,” Howe told Bucknuts.com. “I didn’t get any playing time. I was just sitting back waiting.”
As a junior in 1990, Howe was approached by the coaching staff about a possible move to defense. Robert Smith was joining the team and Carlos Snow was also on the roster (although he would miss the entire 1990 season with an injury).
“Yeah, they wanted me to play DB, but that was a totally different situation,” Howe said. “They recruited me as a running back, but they wanted me to play defense. I hadn’t played defense since high school. Offense was always my thing.
“I think I just got off on the wrong foot with the new coaching staff and they never gave me a chance. I returned a couple of kickoffs, and that was it.”
Howe says he and Cooper never discussed the lack of playing time.
“Actually, he didn’t communicate well at all,” Howe said. “It was just one of those things. But that’s all right. It’s in the past.”
Howe, who wore the No. 37 at OSU, left the school for good after the 1990 season and returned to Zanesville. He decided not to transfer to another college.
“No, that was it for me,” he said.
Today, Howe, 35, is married and is the proud father of five girls. He works for the city of Zanesville and seems happy with his life after football.
And he will always have the distinction of being the first Mr. Football winner in Ohio – a state known for its outstanding high school football.
“Yeah, that’s something I still take a little bit of pride in,” Howe said. “It’s an honor not everyone can receive. I don’t think about it too much, but now my girls know about it and they like to kid and joke me about it.”
Howe never considered getting into coaching.
“No, I just enjoy the sport now,” he said. “I follow the Buckeyes a little bit.”
1988-89: Robert Smith, Euclid
Tailback Robert Smith is the only two-time winner of the Mr. Football award.
As a junior at Euclid in 1988, the 6-2, 185-pound Smith rushed for 1,564 yards (8.8 yards per carry) and averaged 31 yards per punt return on 10 returns.
As a senior in 1989, the 6-2, 195-pound Smith rushed for 2,042 yards (10 yards per carry) and 31 touchdowns.
He finished his prep days with 5,038 career yards and 67 career touchdowns.
Smith signed with Ohio State and was a national star as a freshman. He broke the OSU freshman rushing record with 1,126 yards in 1990. He seemed destined to be the next great running back at the school.
However, in preseason camp of 1991, Smith quit the team, claiming that the coaching staff cared little about academics. He said that offensive coordinator Elliot Uzelac was at the root of the problem and said that he would not consider returning to the team unless Uzelac was removed.
Smith sat out the entire 1991 season, but returned in 1992 (yes, Uzelac was gone) and rushed for just under 900 yards for the Buckeyes.
Although he was still a sophomore eligibility-wise, he declared for the NFL draft in 1993. Smith was selected in the first round by the Minnesota Vikings and went on to enjoy an impressive eight-year career in the NFL.
His best year was his final season in the league, 2000. Smith rushed for 1,521 yards (5.2 per carry) and seven touchdowns. He also had 36 receptions for 348 yards and three scores, and was named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl team.
Smith amassed 6,818 career rushing yards in the NFL (4.8 yards per carry) and 32 career touchdowns.
1990: Bobby Hoying, St. Henry
Quarterback Bobby Hoying made it 4-for-4 for Ohio State in terms of signing Ohio Mr. Football award recipients.
As a senior in 1990, the 6-4, 210-pound Hoying was 105-of-180 passing (58 percent completion percentage) for 1,736 yards. He had 20 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. He also had 201 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, and added seven interceptions as a safety.
Hoying was a three-year starter at OSU, taking over the controls in 1993 as a third-year sophomore.
He was decent his first two years, but really came on as a senior in 1995. Hoying set a then-OSU single-season record with 3,269 passing yards (later broken by Joe Germaine in 1998 with 3,330) and also set the school mark with 29 touchdown passes.
Hoying also holds the OSU career record for touchdown passes (57) and is second behind Art Schlichter for the career passing yards record at OSU. Schlichter had 7,547 yards and Hoying had 7,232.
Hoying was a third round selection by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1996. He played seven seasons in the NFL – three with the Eagles and four with the Oakland Raiders.
Hoying’s best professional season was 1997 when he started six games for the Eagles. He was 128-of-225 passing (56.9 percent) for 1,573 yards. He added 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Today, Hoying is working in commercial real estate in Columbus. He is part of a firm that includes former OSU basketball player Rick Smith and former OSU quarterback Greg Frey.
1991: Derek Kidwell, Fostoria
Quarterback/defensive end Derek Kidwell led Fostoria to the 1991 Division II state championship. The 6-4, 225-pound Kidwell was 85-of 144-passing for 1,526 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He added 379 rushing yards and five TD’s.
Defensively, he had 44 tackles, two sacks and four fumble recoveries.
Kidwell decided to go to Bowling Green, but ran into some trouble with the law before his college career began.
Days before his high school graduation in 1992, Kidwell and three of his friends were arrested for vandalism for trashing Fostoria High School. They smashed plate glass doors, threw beer bottles, and mangled signs.
Vandalism was a fourth degree felony at the time and Kidwell spent seven days in jail and was barred from participating in graduation ceremonies.
Kidwell did play Bowling Green, but could never get his football career on track in college.
Following graduation, he became an assistant high school football coach and teacher. He eventually landed the head coaching job at Hopewell-Loudon. Prior to the 2004 season, he moved on to Fremont Ross where he is the head football coach today.
1992: Marc Edwards, Norwood
Fullback/linebacker Marc Edwards rushed for 1,721 yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior at Norwood in 1992. The 6-2, 220-pound Edwards also racked up 113 tackles.
He signed with Notre Dame and was a two-year starter for the Fighting Irish. He had 1,591 career rushing yards and 27 career touchdowns at ND.
Edwards was a second round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 1997. He is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars and will be entering his ninth season in the league this fall (has also played for the Browns and Patriots).
Edwards has just 405 career rushing yards (3.3 per carry) and three touchdowns. But he has made his mark as a good receiver out of the backfield. He has 157 career receptions for 1,235 yards (7.9 per reception) and eight touchdowns.
1993: Curtis Enis, Mississinawa Valley
Tailback Curtis Enis was a dominate player on the small-school level. As a senior in 1993, he rushed for 2,764 yards (10.8 yards per carry) and 37 touchdowns. The 6-3, 232-pound Enis had 440 yards and seven touchdowns in one game.
He signed with Penn State and was an All-Big Ten selection as a junior and senior, rushing for over 1,000 yards each year.
Enis was the No. 5 overall selection of the 1998 NFL Draft, taken by the Chicago Bears. He tore his left ACL as a rookie and played just three seasons in the league.
Enis had 1,497 career rushing yards (3.3 yards per carry) and four touchdowns in the NFL.
He actually had a decent season in 1999, rushing for 916 yards (3.2 per carry) for the Bears.
1994: Charles Woodson, Fremont Ross
As a senior in 1994, the 6-1, 190-pound Woodson rushed for 2,028 yards and 38 touchdowns. He had a total of 2,596 all-purpose yards.
Woodson is the only Ohio Mr. Football award winner to sign with Michigan. He is the Benedict Arnold of the list.
Woodson started three years as a defensive back at UM. He also returned kicks and played a little bit of wide receiver.
Woodson had 18 career interceptions at Michigan and 182 career tackles. He also had five career offensive touchdowns and one punt return touchdown (against OSU in 1997).
Woodson led Michigan to a share of the national championship in ’97 (Nebraska was co-champs) and edged Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning for the Heisman Trophy.
Woodson left UM after his junior season and was the No. 4 overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders as a cornerback.
He has been selected to the Pro Bowl four times and has 16 career interceptions.
1995: Andy Katzenmoyer, Westerville South
Linebacker/fullback Andy Katzenmoyer was the clear choice for the ’95 Mr. Football award. As a senior, he had 88 tackles (53 solos), 16 tackles-for-loss, eight sacks and six forced fumbles. He added 250 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Katzenmoyer signed with Ohio State and wasted no time in making an impact for the Buckeyes. He started his first game as a freshman in 1996, helped lead OSU to a Rose Bowl victory and was named the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year.
The “Big Kat” was a three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection. He won the Butkus Award and was a first-team All-American as a sophomore in 1997.
He finished his OSU career with 256 tackles (197 solo), 50 tackles-for-loss, 18 sacks and six interceptions.
He declared for the NFL Draft following his junior season and was selected by the New England Patriots in the first round in 1999.
Katzenmoyer played three seasons with the Patriots, but had to cut his pro career short due to a neck injury.
1996: Derek Combs, Grove City
Tailback Derek Combs rushed for 2,042 yards (9.5 yards per carry) and 24 touchdowns as a high school senior in 1996. The 6-1, 185-pound Combs added 20 receptions for 400 yards.
He signed with nearby Ohio State, but didn’t see much playing time until his senior season in 2000. As a senior, Combs took over as the starting tailback and led the Buckeyes with 863 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Combs was a seventh round pick by the Oakland Raiders in the 2001 NFL Draft. He was selected as a defensive back and played two seasons in the NFL – 2002 with the Raiders and 2003 with the Green Bay Packers. He also played two seasons in NFL Europe with Amsterdam.
1997: Tony Fisher, Euclid
Tailback Tony Fisher rushed for 2,130 yards and 40 touchdowns as a senior in 1997 and broke Smith’s school records in the process.
The 6-1, 200-pound Fisher decided to sign with Notre Dame, where he had an up-and-down career.
He started 20 career games for the Irish, but never gained more than 783 yards in a season.
Fisher had career college statistics of 384 carries, 1,849 yards (4.8 ypc) and 15 touchdowns.
He hooked on as an undrafted free agent with the Green Bay Packers in 2002 and has enjoyed a solid NFL career up to this point as one of Ahman Green’s backups.
In three years with the Packers, Fisher has 707 rushing yards (4 ypc) and three touchdowns. He has really made his mark as a third down back, catching 77 career passes for 553 yards and four touchdowns.
In 2004, Fisher enjoyed his best NFL season with 38 receptions for 277 yards and two touchdowns.
1998: Ryan Brewer, Troy
Tailback/defensive back Ryan Brewer rushed for 2,856 yards and 40 touchdowns as a senior in 1998. The 5-9, 200-pound Brewer had two interceptions on defense, averaged 44 yards per punt and made four field goals.
Despite his impressive resume, he was not offered a scholarship by Ohio State. In fact, most big schools ignored him because of his size.
Brewer signed with South Carolina and became a versatile slot back/kick returner for the Gamecocks. He saved his best for Ohio State in the 2001 Outback Bowl – Cooper’s final game at OSU’s coach – leading the Gamecocks to a victory over OSU. He also tasted victory against OSU in the 2002 Outback Bowl, Jim Tressel’s first bowl game at OSU.
As a senior at South Carolina in 2002, Brewer had 28 receptions, 299 yards and one touchdown.
After graduating, he played two seasons in NFL Europe.
Today, he is married and owns a business in South Carolina.
1999: Brandon “Bam” Childress, Bedford Chanel
All-purpose standout Bam Childress had 41 receptions for 754 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior in 1999. He added over 700 yards on punt returns and over 600 yards on kickoff returns.
Defensively, he only had seven passes thrown his way in 14 games. One was completed for a three yard gain, two were intercepted, two were batted down at the line, and two were overthrown.
Childress signed with OSU as a cornerback, but was moved to receiver when Tressel took over.
He finally got a chance at meaningful playing time as a senior in 2004, but did not play much the second half of the season. He finished the year with 17 receptions and 205 yards (12.1).
2000: Jeff Backes, Upper Arlington
Tailback Jeff Backes helped lead Upper Arlington to the 2000 Division I state championship. The 5-9, 180-pound Backes rushed for a state record 3,353 yards as a senior and added 44 touchdowns.
He turned down a scholarship offer from Ohio State and signed with Northwestern.
He is now a starting cornerback for the Wildcats. As a junior in 2004, he had 45 tackles and one interception. He is also a dangerous special teams returner and led the Big Ten in 2004 with a 30.3-yard average on kickoff returns. He also averaged 12.8 yards per punt return and had one punt return for a touchdown.
2001: Maurice Clarett, Warren Harding
Tailback Maurice Clarett said prior to his senior season in 2001, “They already have my name on that Mr. Football trophy, I just have to go pick it up.”
As it turns out, he was right.
The 6-0, 230-pound Clarett rushed for 2,194 yards and 38 touchdowns as a senior. He finished his prep days with 4,675 career yards and 65 touchdowns.
Clarett was named USA Today’s national high school offensive player of the year and became OSU’s first commitment of the strong 2002 recruiting class.
He started his first game as a freshman and quickly established himself as one of the top players in the nation. He rushed for 1,230 yards, scored 16 touchdowns and broke Smith’s freshman rushing record at OSU.
Clarett helped lead the Buckeyes to the national championship in 2002. However, the 31-24 double-overtime victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl would prove to be his final game in an OSU uniform.
He was suspended prior to the 2003 season for six games for accepting improper benefits. When OSU found out he lied during the investigation, it decided to suspend him for the entire season.
Therefore, Clarett decided to try and make himself available for the 2004 NFL Draft. It was originally ruled that he was eligible for the draft, but a judge later overturned that decision and Clarett was forced to sit out his second straight year of football.
He is eligible for the 2005 NFL Draft.
2002: Ben Mauk, Kenton
Quarterback Ben Mauk rewrote Ohio’s prep record book in 2002.
He was 390-of-631 passing (61 percent) for 6,228 yards and 72 touchdowns – all state records. He also rushed for 1,252 yards and 15 touchdowns.
For his career, the 6-1, 200-pound Mauk threw for a record 17,223 yards and 175 touchdowns.
He signed with Wake Forest and redshirted his first season.
As a freshman in 2004, he was 49-of-94 passing (52.1) for 572 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He added 295 rushing yards (5.1 per carry) and one touchdown.
Mauk split time with starter Cory Randolph last year and the two will battle for the starting job this fall. Randolph will be a senior.
2003: Ray Williams, Cleveland Benedictine
Tailback Ray Williams rushed for 2,099 yards (8.1 per carry) and 27 touchdowns as a senior in 2003.
The 5-11, 185-pound Williams had over 6,000 career rushing yards. He eventually signed with West Virginia, but never played a down for the Mountaineers.
In a tragic story, Williams, along with high school teammates Lorenzo Hunter and Jon Huddleston, used phony guns to rob two men on April 16, 2004.
One of the victims – Rodney Roberts – drew a real weapon and shot Hunter four times and killed him. A grand jury ruled that Roberts acted in self defense.
Hunter, who was 16 at the time, was one of the top WR prospects in the state.
Williams pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and involuntary manslaughter.
2004: Tyrell Sutton, Akron Hoban
Tailback Tyrell Sutton is the most recent recipient of the Mr. Football award.
He rushed for 3,241 yards and 38 touchdowns as a senior in 2004. He also racked up 9,426 career rushing yards, a state record.
The 5-9, 180-pound Sutton decided to sign with Northwestern. Schools like Ohio State and Michigan stepped up late, but most of the big schools shied away from Sutton early in the recruiting process because of his size.
“Northwestern was with me from the beginning,” Sutton said. “They were loyal to me and I think that’s the best place for me.”
So, will Sutton be the next Mr. Football to make it big, or will he be the next to feel the Mr. Football jinx?
Hoban coach Ralph Orsini is obviously hoping it’s the former.
“I think Tyrell is going to do really well at Northwestern,” he said.
Winning the Mr. Football award was one of the goals Sutton set and everyone associated with the Hoban program was happy to see him pull it off.
“We talk about the Mr. Football award and what it means,” Orsini said. “We talk about how difficult it is to win it in a talent-rich state like this. We talk about how special it is.”
But is Orsini concerned that Sutton could be the next Mr. Football winner that is unable to live up to the label?
“Not at all,” he said. “You can’t worry about that stuff. Tyrell found a good fit for him and I think he’ll do well.”
* Looking ahead, Akron Garfield running back Chris Wells is one of the early favorites to win the 2005 Mr. Football award. He has given a verbal commitment to Ohio State.
So, there you have it. Players such as Smith, Hoying, Woodson, Katzenmoyer and Enis all had outstanding college careers. But overall, the Mr. Football award is anything but a guarantee of future success.