In football, most of the top contributors to a program are upperclassmen, but there are situations where freshmen and sophomores can step in and help out. There are other underclassmen that also work hard and fill roles later in their careers.
When you enter into high school as a football player, most of the time, the young man’s goal is to have a great time playing the game, compete for and win a state title and maybe play well enough to earn a college scholarship.
For some players, even as underclassmen, their roles are well defined and they are already getting attention from coaches at the next level.
Kyle Bolin is a sophomore at Lexington Catholic and is considered one of the best sophomores in the state of Kentucky. Bolin is also playing one of the more difficult positions in sports, quarterback. But Bolin feels like playing with upperclassmen has helped his development.
“Playing with older guys helps me out a tremendous amount,” said Bolin. “They have already gone through and have been going through the same obstacles I am facing. They give me the confidence that I need to play to the best of my ability,” he said.
Jason Hatcher is a defensive lineman from Trinity High in Louisville. Hatcher is also considered one of the top players in the 2013 class. He feels like the older players help him figure out where he stands.
"I like playing with the older guys because it shows exactly where you're located on the talent meter," said Hatcher. "I learn different tricks to the game and playing with those guys gives me a different outlook on the game," he continued.
Other players have similar feelings about the help provided from their teammates.
“I learn a lot playing beside guys like Anthony Wales, Tajh Miliken and Kevon Dunbar,” said Derius Jones, a sophomore wide receiver from Central High in Louisville. “I learn something new every day just by sitting back and watching how those guys work,” he said.
Lyndon Rowe, a freshman running back from Jeffersontown High recognizes the benefit as well.
“It’s overwhelming sometimes,” he said. “I’m just grateful that I get a chance to go out with them every Friday night, even if that means limited playing time. I learn a lot from them; like how to handle situations such as adversity, how to win and other things,” he said.
As a young player, and even as an older player, you have to improve as a player. Listening to the older players can help. But you also have to apply yourself to learning on your own.
Robert Jones, a freshman quarterback from Valley High in Louisville, can also see where he needs to work on his game and excel at his role on the squad.
“I can improve a lot with my footwork,” said Robert. “Throwing on the run is one of the hardest passes in the game to make,” he said.
Kyle Bolin, despite his notoriety, also critiques his own game.
“I feel like I need to work on every single part of my game in order to reach the goal as a player that I have set,” he said. “There are too many things that I need to get better at to get where I want to go.”
Juan Jones, a sophomore safety from Christian County feels like he’s in a similar boat.
“As a free-safety, I can improve a lot on better filling the open lanes,” he said.
Each player has to find their niche on the team and fill that role that the coach asks them to fill.
“For junior varsity, I feel as a leader or someone that, if we need a play, I will make it,” said Rowe. “I feel like my role (on varsity) is to be ready when my number is called, even if it’s not that many plays. You still have to be ready because you never know.”
Bolin’s role has a little more of a leadership feel to it.
I feel that I’m a role model to a lot of my teammates on and off the field, younger and older,” he said. I play as hard as I can and I play with passion,” he said. “Many of my teammates feed off of my enthusiasm. When they get excited, I get even more excited,” he continued.
Hatcher doesn't think he has a certain role, but he believes the team as a whole has a job to do.
"I don't think I have a specific role on the team. I believe that the whole team is needted to make plays in order for my team to be great," he said.
It’s cliché to say that working hard will help you reach your potential, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Each of these young men knows what it takes to get to that next step.
“(To reach my goals) I have to stay focused on my school work and work hard in practices so I will be able to perform better in games,” said Juan Jones.
Derius Jones has the same mindset.
“I feel I have to focus more in the classroom and on the field and surround myself with positive peoples that are trying to make it in this world like me,” he said.
Rowe echoed previous thoughts.
“Every off season I have to get better. Not just at a certain thing, but everything. And I need to work hard on and off the field,” he said.
Bolin listed several individual attributes that he felt the need to improve before he reached his potential: arm strength, accuracy, physical strength, footwork and knowledge of the game to name a few.
“If I master all of those traits and abilities, I feel that I will have a good future as a quarterback,” he finished.
Robert Jones and Jason Hatcher may have made it simpler than them all, however.
“I just need to work hard and praise God,” Jones said.
"I have to get good grades and work harder than anybody else I know," Hatcher finished