Three Center Grove football players will soon be going from one championship culture to another.
Senior starters John Richardson, Jackson Sodrel and Connor Steeb, integral parts of the Trojans’ undefeated Class 6A state championship team this past fall, look forward to being part of Marian University’s football program.
The Knights, the reigning NAIA national champions, are coached by Roncalli High School graduate Mark Henninger, who is now in his fourth season.
Marian’s 2015 roster included four players who played high school football in Johnson County: Brenden Smith, Dom Brown and Braxton Zachery from Indian Creek and Jacob Oglesby from Greenwood.
Richardson, Center Grove’s 6-foot-4, 308-pound right guard, was recruited by Marian to play offensive tackle. He looks forward to having teammates go through summer two-a-days along with him.
“I actually think it’s going to help us transition into college. We’ll have each other,” said Richardson, who was also considering St. Francis College in Fort Wayne, which offered the lineman a scholarship, and the University of Indianapolis, which didn’t.
Richardson chose Marian for academic and athletic reasons.
“The coaching staff at Marian was really appealing, and I’m going to major in nursing,” Richardson said. “Honestly, I like to help people. Maybe with the short time I have with patients I can put a smile on their face and make them feel better.”
As a football player, Richardson’s business is protecting quarterbacks and creating running lanes. So he didn’t compile any statistics during Center Grove’s memorable run to the state title.
But his future Marian teammates did.
A fixture in the Trojans’ defensive secondary, Steeb, a 5-9, 195-pound safety, rang up 56 tackles and four pass deflections as a senior.
Steeb, too, is excited for the opportunity to continue playing football with a friend he’s known since kindergarten. Richardson moved in from Martinsville before his junior season.
“It’s awesome. Going to the next level with your friends, the camaraderie is already there,” Steeb said. “I’ve known Jackson since we were in flag football together.”
Steeb laughs remembering his introduction to Sodrel, a 6-1, 220-pound linebacker who despite missing four games this season due to a fractured right fibula still finished the season with 48 tackles.
In what was their first season of tackle football in the Center Grove Bantam League, Steeb, then a quarterback for the Chicago Bears squad, rolled to the right on a bootleg when Sodrel, playing ‘D’ for the New York Jets, dropped the hammer.
“It was like a train hit me,” said Steeb, who was stopped at the 1 yard line. “He hit me hard. I had to sit out a play.”
Center Grove’s football program is presently sending no less than five other seniors to play at the next level.
They are: defensive tackles Jovan Swann (Stanford) and Cameron Tidd (Vanderbilt); kicker Nathanael Snyder (West Point); punter Drew Conrad (Indiana); and offensive lineman Chris Barnett (Olivet Nazarene).
NEW KIDS IN TOWN
These three Center Grove football players will be part of Marian University’s program starting this coming season:
* John Richardson, 6-4, 308, Offensive lineman
* Jackson Sodrel, 6-1, 220, Linebacker
* Connor Steeb, 5-9, 195, Safety