Knee injuries claimed the first three seasons of Austin Daming’s high school football career.

The Center Grove senior made sure to claim the fourth for himself.

Finally healthy after having four knee surgeries in three years, Daming made the most of his lone opportunity to shine on the field. He led the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference in tackles, earning that league’s Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Daming is also the Daily Journal’s Defensive Player of the Year for 2017.

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“Austin was everything we’d dreamed of,” Center Grove coach Eric Moore said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a kid get everything out of every single minute of game that he did — all until he got hurt the second play of the Avon game, or that could’ve been a different game.”

There have been plenty of could-haves with Daming. He suffered his first knee injury early in his freshman year against Whiteland, and subsequent surgeries delayed a promising career; Moore said he believes that a healthy Daming could have been a varsity contributor as a sophomore.

“At the time, we’re an unbelievable program, so one kid shouldn’t make that much difference,” the coach said, “but in the back of my mind I knew, ‘That hurts. Down the road, that’s going to hurt.'”

Daming was cleared to return to action just before last year’s Class 6A state championship, but Moore opted to keep him on the shelf rather than put his entire senior season at risk.

His patience was rewarded. Before Daming’s season came to an abrupt end in the regional at Avon, a game the Trojans wound up losing 32-21, he collected 102 tackles, including 20 stops for loss and 7.5 quarterback sacks.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder says that having to spend so much time on the sidelines before this year made him that much more determined to take advantage of the small window of time he had left.

“It was always in the back of my mind. It definitely motivated me to try to do the best I can for my team and ball out.”

Whether he’ll play again remains to be seen. After the spring, when Daming will try to improve upon last season’s 17th-place state finish in the shot put, he’s tentatively planning to go to Purdue to major in engineering.

That could change if a good college football opportunity comes along, but if this was Daming’s last year on the gridiron, he made it a good one.

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Austin Daming’s senior season by the numbers:

Tackles;102

Tackles for loss;20

QB sacks;7.5

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IFCA Top 50

AP honorable mention All-State

All-County defense


The defense for the 2017 All-Johnson County football team:

DL Austin Daming, Center Grove senior: Named defensive player of the year in the MIC after collecting a league-best 102 tackles. … IFCA Top 50 pick also forced a fumble and had 20 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.

DL Lucas Hunter, Center Grove junior: Class 6A Junior All-State pick led the Trojans in sacks with 8.5. … Totaled 57 tackles, including 16.5 for loss, and recovered a pair of fumbles.

DL Cole Williams, Center Grove senior: Had 50 tackles, including 8.5 for loss and three quarterback sacks, to go along with a forced fumble. … Earned Class 6A Senior All-State honors.

DL Nick Young, Greenwood senior: Interior lineman made 75 tackles, including 24 for loss and eight quarterback sacks, en route to earning repeat All-Mid-State Conference and Class 4A Senior All-State honors.

LB A.J. Gin, Center Grove senior: Racked up 93 tackles for the seven-time sectional champion Trojans, including four for losses. … Also broke up two passes and recovered a fumble.

LB Tim Johns, Greenwood senior: Finished the season with 100 tackles for the Woodmen, who won their first regional title since 1990. … An IFCA Top 50 and AP Class 4A All-State selection who will continue his football career at Army next season.

LB Bryce Taylor, Greenwood junior: Led the Woodmen in tackles (126) for second straight year despite missing the team’s semistate contest due to injury. … An All-Mid-State Conference and Class 4A Junior All-State selection.

LB/DB Clayton Coll, Franklin junior: Led the area in tackles with 144 in just 10 games, including a high of 18 against Greenwood. … All-conference and Class 5A Junior All-State selection added three sacks and forced three fumbles.

DB Noah Compton, Greenwood senior: All-Mid-State Conference pick intercepted three passes and made 42 tackles as the top cover corner for the Woodmen. … Also returned punts and kickoffs.

DB Keegan Gephart, Center Grove senior: Hard-hitting safety intercepted one pass and broke up five others. … Finished with 38 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and two quarterback sacks.

DB Tyler Watson, Center Grove senior: Lockdown corner intercepted a pair of passes and finished with 14 breakups, also making 54 tackles. … An honorable mention AP All-State pick in Class 6A.

P P.J. Buck, Center Grove junior: Averaged 39.1 yards per punt, placing 17 kicks inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. … Named to the Class 6A Junior All-State team.

Honorable mention

Brad Boswell, Center Grove; Brett Boswell, Center Grove; Manny Cheam, Franklin; Austin Cook, Whiteland; Spencer Downhour, Franklin; Brian Gaffney, Center Grove; Grant Goforth, Indian Creek; Jonah Hays, Center Grove; Tanner Milam, Whiteland; Tyce Miller, Franklin; Zach Murphy, Edinburgh; Jordan Myers, Edinburgh; Jake Patton, Greenwood; Alex Reed, Whiteland; Tommy Reed, Franklin; Dylan Sprong, Indian Creek; Austin Streeval, Edinburgh; Justin VanDyke, Greenwood

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.