At 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and 170 pounds, Cardinal Ritter's Eddie Cmehil isn't the most imposing player on the football field, but once the game starts, his presence is felt immediately. Whether it's delivering or taking a big hit, or extending his body to catch a pass, he doesn't hold back anything. With college football recruiters always looking for a bigger, faster and stronger athlete, Cmehil is out to prove that he can compete at the next level.
"Some people say that size matters, but I trying to go out there and prove them wrong," he said. "If they see me, then that's fine. If they don't, then that's fine too. I'm not worried about who recruits me."
Cmehil says that he's not concerned about recruiting or college football just yet, because wants to take care of some unfinished business his senior season. Ritter has suffered early exits in the playoffs for the past two seasons, while ranked No.1 in Class 2A. Cmehil's goal is to begin and end his career at Ritter with championships.
Cmehil made a name for himself in the 2008 IHSAA State Finals Class A title game against top ranked Sheridan. As a freshman, he played sparingly on Friday nights in varsity games, when the outcome had already been decided.
Ritter cruised through the 2008 regular season and reached the state tiltle game undefeated at 14-0. Sheridan was 13-1, and was regarded as the dominate Class A football program in Indiana with nine state championships, and had claimed three straight state title wins. Raiders' head coach Ty Hunt knew that the only chance for his team to keep up with high-scoring Sheridan would be to open up the passing game under junior quarterback Ross Hendrickson. Ritter was regarded as a pass-first offensive team, and Sheridan relied on its rushing attack and a speedy defense. Hunt and his coaching staff put together a game plan that would include Cmehil starting in his first varsity game in the biggest game of the season.
"As the playoffs entered, we knew that we would have to amp up our passing game," Hunt said. "We started working on four receiver sets, and we worked him into that package, and he became one of those guys through his practicing and work ethic.
"He proved that he could catch the football and run crisp routes. He also proved in practice that he was ready for the challenge. It was something that we had game planned, and he kept building his confidence in preparation for that game."
For Cmehil, it all came to play to quick for him to think about how he would respond.
"It was a last minute decision," he stated. "I was told on Thursday to be ready the next day. Like any other game, I was nervous at first, but once I got that first play in, it was just like any other game. I blocked out the crowd noise and started catching passes."
Cmehil started the game and caught seven passes for 55 yards, while keeping the Sheridan defense on its heels all night. Ritter defeated the Blackhawks 34-27 to capture the school's third state title.
"It was the greatest moment of my life," he said. "Our fans were going crazy. I was just a freshman out there and I didn't know what to do. I was just happy for our seniors."
Hunt said that the plan worked to perfection, because Sheridan had focused so much on all-state wide receiver Tyrone Walker.
"They were willing to let the young guy beat them on occasions, and he stepped up to the challenge," he said. "It was great for us that Walker held the spotlight, because Sheridan really concentrated on him, which made Eddie available."
As a sophomore and junior, Cmehil proved himself as a two-way player, and key contributor on special teams. He has career totals of 107 receptions for 1,428 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also led the team in tackles during his junior season. Hunt says that he has established himself as a leader and a role model over the past two years, because he's driven and thrives when given the opportunity to succeed. He's been equally impressive in the classroom with a 4.0 grade point average, ranking him among the top students in his class.
"He's a character guy," Hunt said. "He was just voted as a team captain, as he was last year. I told the younger kids that if you're going to work hard, this is the guy you want to look up to as a role model. Championship teams are built on character, not a team of characters, and he sets the tone for us."
Cmehil has placed the pressure of getting the Raiders back to the State Finals clearly on his shoulders.
"We've had disappointing losses in the playoffs for two straight years, and I need to get better as a player and leader," he said. "As a leader, I have a big role and I need to improve my blocking, tackling and catching the football. I try to lead by example, but I'm not afraid to get in someone's face when I see them slacking. Actions speak louder than words, but I try to do a little of both."
Cmehil hasn't decided where he will attend college, but hopes to continue his football career and seek a degree in engineering or medicine. He says he won't rule out returning to Ritter as a football coach in the future.
"I bleed black and red, and I can't see myself coaching anywhere other that at Ritter."