SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — Dedication.
Shawnee’s Myles Aldrich is the embodiment of that word in more ways than one.
Before the final game last season, Aldrich’s father passed away due to pancreatic cancer, so the senior dedicated this season to his dad. It paid off with a standout year for the Indians at linebacker.
During the regular season, Aldrich recorded 120 tackles, five sacks and 10 tackles for loss and had an interception for a touchdown. His performance on the field earned him the Western Buckeye League Defensive Back of the Year honor, Division III All-Northwest District co-defensive player of the year and the 2021 Lima News Dream Team defensive player of the year.
“He actually passed away before our last game last year, so it made my goal this year to win defensive player of the year in our league,” Aldrich said. “So I wrote his birthday on my helmet every game, and I just play harder when I play for two people.”
Aldrich admitted his father was not a big sports guy growing up but said he definitely taught him some life lessons such as work hard and listen to authority figures.
“His lessons really stuck with me, and I am just glad he can still be a part of my life,” Aldrich said.
Shawnee coach Jerry Cooper said the thing that set him apart this year was his “I am going to go after it mentality.”
“From the very first day of practice to the last down of the last game, he was just letting it all hang out,” Cooper said. “He played with great intensity and great enthusiasm and just playing so hard. Then you couple that with all the work he did in the offseason to get ready to play.”
Cooper added that Aldrich ran track last spring to try to improve his speed . He participated in high jump to work on his explosiveness. He also was a frequent visitor to the weight room, so when he came in to preseason in July, Aldrich had added 20 pounds to his frame and was faster and more explosive. The Shawnee coach said that culminated in his banner year.
“Myles has probably changed more from his freshman year to his senior year than any player I have ever coached, and I have been coaching a long time,” Cooper said. “He was kind of short, slightly overweight freshman, and as a sophomore he grew out of that middle school body. Then he started getting muscular in between there, and he just contoured his body because of how he worked out.”
But the mental discipline is what Cooper said stood out for him.
“He just said, ‘I am going to go as hard as I can,’ and the players on the team realized it, that you did not want to mess with Myles on the practice field because he was going to go hard,” Cooper said. “If you got in his way, you are liable to get hurt out there because that is the kind of mentality out there. He was just going hard all the time.”
Aldrich said he felt he could be one of the best this year in the team’s scrimmages.
“In one of our scrimmages I had a big game on offense and defense, so I was like, ‘Maybe I can help our team win.’ And then after the first game (a 20-13 win over Lima Central Catholic), they were giving me praise, so I said, ‘Maybe I got something going.’”
Aldrich added that his strengths are finding the football and getting off blocks.
“I try to pay sideline to sideline, and any time I can get my eyes on the ball I am going,” Aldrich said.
Opponents found that out the hard way during the regular season, as Aldrich was the driving force behind Shawnee’s defense that helped the Indians to a winning season and their first playoff win in school history. The Indians were ranked third overall in the WBL in total team defense, yielding an average of 234.6 yards a game.
In six of their seven wins, the Indians held opponents to single digits.
“The first thing is we couldn’t play that type of scheme we play if you don’t have that guy in the middle that can do multiple things,” Cooper said. “He had to drop to help us cover and play some zone. He had to be able to pick up guys out of the backfield. He had to be able to blitz and put some powerful pressure, and other times he just had to sit in there and read. Even though we were outnumbered in the box, he had to be the guy that found the ball and made tackles, and I think he did all those things really well.”
Aldrich, true to his nature, said he gives credit to his coaches and teammates for this year’s success.
“I got to credit Mike Lewis, our defensive coordinator, for trusting me, and I have to credit our defensive linemen Shannon Swell, Carter Fey and Johnny Norris, for really opening it up for me so I could make tackles.”
Aldrich, who led by example, said he wanted to influence his teammates by how he performed on the field.
Insane was the one word Aldrich used to describe the season. He even pointed out that he had no idea that he could play this well, and it was an eye-opener even for him.
“I want to take my talents to the next level,” said Aldrich, who is looking to play at the Division III level. “My eyes are really still open, and I am talking to some coaches.”
Even though he is being recognized for his talent on the field, Aldrich remains dedicated to winning and said all the individual accomplishments and accolades take a back seat to victories.
“Winning the accolades are not as big as winning our first playoff game,” Aldrich said. “I am more of a win type of guy. I don’t care how much influence I have as long as I win the game. Winning those accolades are amazing, but I credited all those to others.”