By ANDREW WILLIAMS
It takes a mature athlete to understand the stages of their development and the importance of continued improvement no matter what level of play they have reached.
Former Patrick Henry football standout Colt Pettit is one of those rare athletes.
Pettit will be representing Team Ohio in the inaugural Ohio-Michigan Border Classic All-Star game slated for 1 p.m. Saturday at Donnell Stadium.
More than 70 of the top players from the neighboring states have gathered on the University of Findlay campus this week to practice, interact with one another and enjoy the final football experience of their prep careers before many of them report to college in the next few weeks.
After competing in one of Ohio’s small-school divisions at Patrick Henry the last four years, Pettit knows the caliber of his future opponents is much higher than that of the ones he has already faced. Before leaving to continue his playing career at Virginia Tech, Pettit wanted to put in more work and get accustomed to the level of competition he is about to encounter.
“It’s definitely just getting me ready,” Pettit said of the game. “Seeing better competition, more quicker, faster, stronger guys. Just preparing me better for college pretty much.
“I could have went in about two weeks ago at Virginia Tech but I thought I definitely need to get more ready, get more prepared so I decided to play.”
Players leaving home early to fulfill college obligations is actually something both the Ohio and Michigan squads encountered and were hampered by in the weeks leading up to the game.
Team Ohio lost 11 players total from its original roster, including Big Ten commits in wide receiver Isaiah Gentry (Minnesota), linebacker Tegray Scales (Indiana), defensive back Vayante Copeland (Michigan State), defensive lineman Michael Barwick (Indiana) and offensive lineman Martesse Patterson (Purdue).
“We had some pulled (from the roster),” Lima Senior and Team Ohio coach Mike Fell said. “What you have to realize, though, is that a lot of these guys have to report (to college) early. The big thing we’ve run into is that a lot of colleges want their guys in school by June so they begin lifting and doing all those things they need to get ready for their season.
“That’s why we appreciate the guys who are here.”
The focus will not be on the players unable to participate Saturday, though, but rather on those like Pettit who will be closing illustrious prep careers with one final showcase.
Pettit finished his time at Patrick Henry as a three-time first team all-Northwest Ohio Athletic League pick. He was named first team all-Ohio as offensive guard (2012) and as a defensive lineman (2013), was the 2013 Division VI defensive player of the year and the Ohio Football Coaches Association player of the year.
“It’s definitely just a great honor,” Pettit said of being selected for the game. “To be able to play in the first game like this, Ohio versus Michigan. It’s going to be a great experience, no doubt, being able to look back on it and know that you were the first one to play in it. It’s going to be awesome.”
As a four-year letterman, Pettit led the Patriots to 36 victories, three state playoff appearances and helped coach Bill Inselmann achieve 200 career victories in the process.
In addition to the game Saturday, teams have gotten the chance to bond off the field and get to know one another as more than just football players. It’s part of the whole experience the all-star contest provides and is something that Pettit will continue to soak up throughout the week.
“Just getting to know the guys. Hanging out in the rooms, practicing, everything,” he said. “It’s just a great experience overall. When we look back it’s going to be very memorable.”
Pettit represented the north in the annual Ohio North/South All-Star game held in April at Dayton’s Welcome Stadium, and was even selected as one of the captains for the game.
That was a game pitting in-state players against one another. Saturday will be a different story.
Playing in his final game in northwest Ohio, Pettit wants to go out with a bang. And at the expense of the team up north, too.
“Just looking to win honestly,” Pettit said. “We’re going to play our best and I know they’re going to too. So it’s just going to be a good game.
“Growing up in Ohio, your rivals are Michigan. We just want to get out there and prove ourselves. You’ve got to represent the state obviously. We’ve got 32 guys on the team right now so we’re just going to represent the best way we can and just try to beat the crap out of Michigan.”
By ANDREW WILLIAMS