There was no magical dietary supplement that made Keith Yohman a great athlete at Brunswick High School.
Forget about a revolutionary mental exercise.
Don’t even consider a shocking new training discovery that completely changed his body in six weeks.
To be honest, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Yohman looks like tons of high school athletes. Heck, he looks like tons of high school students, period. He’s not particularly big, overwhelmingly strong or unusually tall.
Yohman has some natural ability, to be sure, but he became The Gazette’s 2013 Senior Male Athlete of the Year thanks to a tried-and-true approach whose effectiveness is sometimes underrated, overlooked or even completely forgotten.
Plain and simple, Yohman worked.
“He’s one of the hardest-working kids we had,” Brunswick football coach Luke Beal said. “He was in unbelievable shape. He was able to maintain a high level of play when other guys were gassed.”
“He doesn’t question,” Blue Devils track coach Scott Merrill added. “You can say, ‘Here’s the workout; here’s what we are doing,’ and he just goes out and does it. He doesn’t say much, but the kid is a pretty fierce competitor. He doesn’t like to lose. When he has lost, he’s said, ‘That won’t happen again.’”
Yohman, who will play football at Division III Baldwin Wallace University and likely run track as well, lettered three years in both sports at Brunswick, the largest school in Medina County.
The 17-year-old — he will celebrate his 18th birthday on June 22 — rushed for 307 yards and two touchdowns and caught 20 passes for 211 yards and another score while earning honorable mention All-Gazette honors as a junior, when he also played full-time at cornerback and on almost all special teams.
Yohman again almost never came off the field as a senior, when he earned All-Gazette honors after rushing for 499 yards and seven TDs and adding 29 catches for 360 yards and six scores from his slotback position.
The owner of 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash, he had three interceptions as a junior and six picks and four blocked kicks or punts as a senior.
“The one thing about Keith is he was always unbelievably consistent with his work ethic, with his attitude, with his performance,” Beal said. “Keith is definitely a man of few words, but he was always a great leader by example.
“You could always count on Keith. He never missed a workout and he played every snap. He never came off the field, but he was never tired. He was always that guy who was steady.”
Yohman, whose fraternal twin Dan was Brunswick’s quarterback, wouldn’t have had it any other way. In his eyes, he was wearing pads and a helmet to play football, so he might as well play every down.
“It was just mental, trying to stay tough,” said Yohman, who fought through cramps in his calves in several games. “You have to push through it when you get tired.
“Every once in a while, you want to tell Coach you need a break, but with your teammates pushing you and the adrenaline flowing, it’s not that bad. You can’t think about being tired. Against the Mentors, where it’s fast paced, you don’t have time to think about being tired. You’re always focused on the next play.”
Over his final two football seasons, the only time Yohman came off the field — unless the Blue Devils were way ahead and resting their starters — was on field goal and extra point attempts. One of the most important skill players on the team, he even played on the punt coverage unit.
“I didn’t hold myself above anyone else, but to know Coach was counting on me to stay out there all the time was important to me,” he said. “It was something where I tried to do my best every single play.”
Added Dan Yohman, who will also play football at Baldwin Wallace: “He’s always striving to get better and he’s always determined. He’d be tired, but he’d still want to continue. He’d keep playing until he won. He wouldn’t give up.”
Having compiled a 3.55 grade-point average and scored a 23 on his ACT — he plans to major in chemistry in college — Keith Yohman was equally smart on the gridiron.
That’s part of the reason why he didn’t waste valuable energy on showy touchdown celebrations or leaping chest bumps. There was, after all, another play to prepare for.
Plus, everyone in the stands had already seen him score. They didn’t need to witness any shameless self-promotion to remind them.
“I was taught that you let your pads do the talking, that you keep your mouth quiet and do what you’re supposed to do,” Yohman said.
That maturity was not lost on his head coach, who knew he could always trust Yohman to do the right thing.
“He’s what we preach we want our players to be — a good person and a good student with an excellent work ethic and attitude,” Beal said. “We’re definitely going to miss him.”
Beal chuckled at that point and added, “Not to mention, he’s also very fast.”
Extremely fit but not in a completely-ripped-with-bulging-muscles way, Yohman also put that speed to good use on the track, where he earned All-Gazette honors as a junior and was named Gazette MVP as a senior.
Yohman made his first trip to the D-I state track meet as a sophomore, when he was part of a 4×400-meter relay that ran a school-record time of 3:21.95. He also went to Columbus with the 4×2 that year.
As a junior, Yohman qualified for state in the 100 and 200 dashes, but failed to make the final in either.
This year, he finished first in the 200 and 4×1 and second in the 100 and 4×4 at the Amherst District and was optimistic he would qualify for state in three events — the 200, 4×1 and 4×4 — at the Amherst Regional.
However, while running in his first event, a 100 preliminary heat, he strained his hamstring after 25 meters and had to ease up.
Just like that, Yohman’s senior season was over, as the injury prevented him from running in the 200 prelims and with the relays.
Yohman, however, stayed to support his teammates at regionals and traveled to Columbus with the 4×4 relay when it qualified for state.
“He’s just an all-around good kid,” Merrill said. “When he got hurt at the end of the year, he could have gone off and pouted, but he stood there and rooted on his teammates.
“He was my captain. If I was running late, he would get the kids started at practice and make sure we stretched and did drills. He pushed the younger kids to get better. He was a positive role model in every aspect.”
In the end, the aspect that stood out most was not revolutionary, magical or hard to fathom. Hard work helped Yohman succeed on the football field, and it helped him succeed on the track.
“I’m sure there were times when he got tired, but he had worked so hard in conditioning that you could never tell,” Beal said. “That was an inspiration to the rest of our players. They saw it, so we could tell them that hard work really does pay off.
“Keith is the embodiment of that.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.