The same day high school football practice kicked off across Ohio, Centerville held the 51st annual Sonny Unger Foundation Award Banquet.
The featured speakers were former Ohio State linebackers A.J. Hawk, Anthony Schlegel and Bobby Carpenter and new Centerville football coach Brent Ullery.
Former Elk Ryan Hawk (A.J.’s older brother) served as host, and they made his job easy as they spent more than an hour regaling the crowd with stories about their time in Columbus, stints in the pros and their post-playing career lives.
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From meeting during the recruiting process, to the only time they heard coach Jim Tressel say a certain expletive (rhymes with ‘Buck’) to afternoons now when their kids play together in the same neighborhood, there was no shortage of laughs.
“We were very lucky to be in the right place at the right time,” said the younger Hawk, who with Schlegel and Carpenter formed the starting linebacker group for the Buckeyes in 2005, the second Tressel-coached team to win the Big Ten title.
Carpenter is co-host of a radio show in Columbus, while Schlegel was a strength and conditioning coach for Ohio State from 2011-14.
The two went into business together in 2015 as co-founders of a company that sells a portable training machine called The Difference.
A.J. Hawk recently announced his retirement from pro football after nine seasons with the Green Bay Packers, one with the Cincinnati Bengals and part of another with the Atlanta Falcons.
With all three done playing, none sounded anxious to get back on the field. But they shared a mutual appreciation for the hard times their coaches put them through and said they miss the camaraderie they shared with their teammates, particularly in high school and at Ohio State.
Hawk said the only thing he expects to miss are “those five, 10 minutes after a game where coaches come around, you’re hugging your buddies, you shower and you go home and get to hang out with your family and your friends on the team, that’s the feeling you can’t duplicate anywhere.”
•Ullery, who was a walk-on for the Buckeyes and played with Carpenter, Schlegel and Hawk in 2005, was hired as the new coach of the Elks earlier this year. He is the son of long-time CHS coach Ron Ullery, and he sounds determined to set an old-school tone now that he is in charge.
“Part of what we do here is stuff just because it’s hard,” Ullery said. “Down the road it’s going to be really hard. Life’s going to be really hard, and at some point you’re going to have a baby and a new job and all these people counting on you and you can’t let that be the first hard thing you’ve ever done.”
•Austin Hanes and Mason Kuhr, seniors on the 2016 Centerville squad, won the 2017 Sonny Unger Award.
•The evening began with a wing eating contest between Archer’s Tavern, Bennett’s and Buffalo Wild Wings. Archer’s received the most votes among attendees and will get a traveling trophy to keep for the next year.
•The night also included a silent auction with items including a Packers helmet signed by A.J. Hawk, a football signed by ESPN college football analyst/CHS alumnus Kirk Herbstreit and a picture signed by Deacon Jones. The winning bid for the Packers helmet was $500.