INDIANAPOLIS – Jimmy Mills is getting used to life at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Just two weeks removed from capturing a fourth straight IHSAA 1A State Championship with Lafayette Central Catholic, Mills was back at the home of the Colts Sunday. This time it was for what he does away from the gridiron.
Mills was one of 24 high school seniors (14 valedictorians, five salutatorians) chosen for the 2012 Indiana High School Academic All-Stars Award.
“It’s awesome to be back here,” Mills said. “We try to be a school that’s known not just for athletics but also academics, so I try and uphold that standard every day.”
Players and families gathered at Lucas Oil Stadium as the Colts honored their accomplishments in the classroom. It was a morning filled with activities, along with tickets to the Colts’ 27-23 victory over Tennessee later that afternoon.
Colts Director of Player Engagement David Thornton joined Dave Shelbourne, the chairman of the Indiana Football Coaches Association Academic All-State Committee, in speaking with the student athletes at an awards presentation prior to the game.
“We are looking to recognize kids because they are good players (players had to have started 70 percent of their games), but we are really looking for quality academic athletes,” Shelbourne said.
“Coaches turn in their applications and we are looking for them to minimum be top five percent in their class. Quite honestly, the kids that made the team are much higher than that.”
Paul Reller, a wide receiver from Southridge High School, fit the criteria, and he was joined by his family to take part in Sunday’s program.
On Saturday night, Reller and his Southridge High School basketball team defeated Pike Central and he headed home for a quick rest before embarking on a trip to Indianapolis in the wee hours of the morning.
“We got done late last night and we left at 3:30 this morning to get up here,” Kirk Reller, Paul’s father, said. “A lot of coffee and a short nap, but well worth the trip.”
The lack of sleep could not be seen from Kirk’s beaming eyes in talking about how proud he was of his son, and he even recalled an ironic family photograph of Paul.
“When Paul was little, we’ve got a picture of him with a David Thornton jersey on, and now we can put a real picture with him,” Kirk said with a smile. “When we got the e-mail from the Colts office, just that in itself was very exciting. This is fascinating.”
Among the players selected was Kegan Anderson of Oak Hill High School. Six years ago, the Anderson family attended the same event at the RCA Dome with its oldest son.
Cary Anderson, Keegan’s father, was extremely grateful to attend another ceremony that has honored a pair of his sons to go along with another that was a salutatorian.
“My wife, Kasey, and I are very proud,” Cary said. “We’ve had three sons and they’ve been excellent on the field and in the classroom.
“To be able to be around some of the Colts players and Mr. Thornton, who was a great player for the Colts, was all very exciting. Just a great honor and we are very proud.”
Before heading to their seats to take in the Colts’ victory, the players joined members of the armed services to hold the American flag that is spread across the entire field during the national anthem.
This marks the 14th year the Colts, in conjunction with the IHSAA and the IFCA, have presented these awards to the top student athletes at each position across the state.
Shelbourne, who coached Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson at Highland High School, pointed out that Colts quarterback
“I’ve been in education for over 40 years, and this is why I do it,” Shelbourne said.
“We had a little discussion here earlier that a lot of times it’s an either/or situation. You can either be a great athlete or a great student, but I don’t see any reason why you can’t do both and still carry yourself with some class and composure. This to me is the epitome of being a teacher, counselor and for the parents, it’s an awesome day.”
POS, NAME, HIGH SCHOOL
OL, Eric Stull, Covington
OL, Ian Bostock, Paoli
OL, Kyle Stucker, Whiteland
OL, Joseph Sweeney, Cardinal Ritter
OL, Sam McKay, Jefferson
TE, Blake Miller, Woodlan
WR, Paul Reller, Southridge
WR, Daniel Riffle, III, Triton
RB, Dallas Cobb, Mitchell
RB, Collin Campbell, Lebanon
QB, Brandon Rooze, Benton Central
POS, NAME, HIGH SCHOOL
DL, Kris Hill, Northeastern
DL, Jimmy Mills, Central Catholic
DL, Jacob Strauch, Southside
DL, Nicholas Hibshman, Memorial
LB, Trent Tatlock, Edinburgh
LB, Levi Hilgenhold, Perry Central
LB, Kegan Anderson, Oak Hill
DB, Danny Kennedy, Guerin Catholic
DB, Justin Miller, Eastside
DB, Ryan Spesard, Carroll
DB, Mason Clark, Franklin
POS, NAME, HIGH SCHOOL
P, Austin Brown, Griffith
PK, Matt Eppers, Central