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Reporter's notebook: A goodbye and thank you to Lamar Sperling

Watching the 2022 Ohio Mr. Football has been one special journey
Photo by Jeff Harwell 

Photo by Jeff Harwell 

CANTON, Ohio – Every so often in this business, you get to watch a player who is just special.

Over the past two seasons, those of us in Ohio – and Northeast Ohio in particular – have had a chance to witness that with Archbishop Hoban running back Lamar Sperling.

On Thursday night, Sperling strapped on the blue and gold of Hoban one final time as the Knights took on Toledo Central Catholic in the OHSAA Division II state championship game.

Central Catholic came out on top 28-21 to claim the state title, but Sperling made his presence felt at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, giving us all one last look at the greatness he has displayed over the past two seasons.

With the game being played next door to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which houses busts of the greatest players in pro football history, Sperling put on a show for the ages.

Sperling ran the ball 22 times for 266 yards and three touchdowns in just the second and third quarters combined to keep Hoban in the game and give the Knights a shot at taking home their sixth state title in eight years.

When all was said and done, the 2022 Ohio Mr. Football award winner had sliced and diced his way to a Division II state championship record 356 yards on 40 carries and scored all three touchdowns for the Knights.

And then after the game, he answered questions the same way he has for the past two seasons – with humbleness and an unselfish nature.

“Basically, I just tried my hardest to help the team out,” Sperling said. “Obviously, I couldn’t do it by myself. The holes were there so I took them. If they weren’t, I bounced it out.”

Hearing Sperling give himself even that slightest bit of credit for bouncing a play outside when a hole wasn’t available is a rarity.

For the past two seasons, it has been about his teammates, his offensive line, his coaches, his training staff. Basically, anything except Lamar Sperling.

Having the chance to be around Sperling and talk to him numerous times over these past two seasons, one thing I know is that the 5-foot-10 running back is comfortable talking about anything but himself.

That’s why when I interviewed Sperling after Hoban’s 41-20 win over Massillon in the state semifinals a week ago, I started off with a simple lead-in to my first question because he had just broken the state record for most rushing touchdowns in a season with 55, so I wanted to ask Sperling about Sperling.

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“Lamar, I know you don’t like talking about yourself,” I said.

“Nope,” Sperling said with a smile.

Then I asked him the question about breaking the record and wanting to know what he sees that had allowed him to score so many times this season.

His response at first seemed simple enough.

“Daylight, every time,” Sperling said.

But then he expounded on what he meant.

“My (offensive line), they make the holes as well as the fullback,” Sperling said. “I just run through it.”

Answers like that have become commonplace with Sperling.

The other answer that has been repeated time and time again comes from Hoban head coach Tim Tyrrell, who once again told us Thursday night just how special Sperling is, not just as a football player, but as a person.

“He is Mr. Football, so you gotta be pretty damn good,” Tyrrell said. “He is the most humble individual and will always push it to the guys sitting next to him. As great as he is, he is a better man than he is a football player.”

As someone who has had an up-close look at Sperling, I would have to agree.

So, from all of us who got see your nearly 7,000 rushing yards and 99 rushing touchdowns over the past few years and then had the pleasure of getting to know you as more than a football player, I have a simple message.

Thank you, Lamar, for taking us all on this journey and for being modest while doing so.

And good luck in the future.

Read more about Lamar Sperling:

Archbishop Hoban's Lamar Sperling not just a special football player, but a special person as well

Lamar Sperling does it again as Archbishop Hoban defeats Barberton 41-13 in regional quarterfinals

Archbishop Hoban running back Lamar Sperling just keeps impressing

Despite his great 2021 season for Archbishop Hoban, Lamar Sperling is looking ahead

Hoban offensive linemen on Lamar Sperling: 'To hear him heap praise on us - that warms my soul'

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