For more than two decades, Jim Ritcher stood alone. The 1976 Highland High graduate and former Buffalo Bills guard was the only player from Medina County to be named to the NFL Pro Bowl, being honored in 1991 and ’92.
That changed this week when 2008 Cloverleaf graduate Kyle Juszczyk was named to the AFC squad at fullback after another standout season for the Baltimore Ravens.
The game will be Jan. 29 in the Orlando Citrus Bowl.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by my peers, coaches and fans as the AFC representative at fullback,” Juszczyk said on the Ravens’ website. “So much credit goes to the talented backs running behind me, the dominant offensive line in front of me and a skillful quarterback throwing me the ball.”
It’s also an honor that doesn’t shock those who were around the 6-foot-1, 240-pound standout tight end, fullback, quarterback and linebacker in high school.
Former Cloverleaf coach Kevin Gault was all smiles. Gault, who now lives in the Outer Banks in North Carolina, always saw the drive Juszczyk displays every week for Baltimore.
It started when Juszczyk was a 5-foot-3, 130-pound freshman quarterback on the Colts’ junior varsity. In a game in which his team was behind late against Green, he called virtually every play and led Cloverleaf to a win.
Gault knew he had something special.
“When you watched him on the outside but weren’t on the inside and saw him every day — I mean he was a good football player — there’s a lot much more than what you saw,” Gault said. “I’ve never been around a kid that was as focused as he was. His day is consumed with getting better with whatever he does. That’s just how he approaches things.”
Gault also recalled the team’s senior banquet when Juszczyk took the podium after Cloverleaf’s only playoff season, which was made possible by Juszczyk’s game-winning touchdown in double-overtime against undefeated Highland in Week 10.
Juszczyk brought a file on every high school player he played against and gave it to the underclassmen to study for the next season.
“Even at a young age, he mentally got it,” Gault said. “He understood how to put things together to get things done. He’s just an amazing person.
“When you look at all the success stories of athletes from movies to documentaries on ESPN, there are very few people in this world who are a bigger success story than Kyle.”
Juszczyk put up notable statistics to get selected to the Pro Bowl.
Juszczyk, 25, leads all fullbacks in receptions (33) and yards (255) and is the top-ranked fullback in the league, according to the website Pro Football Focus, with a plus-7.4 grade.
Contact sports writer Brad Bournival at email@example.com.
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