Several of the NFL’s biggest stars with Ohio roots will be in back in the Buckeye State Wednesday for Centerville High School’s Annual Sonny Unger Memorial Scholarship Banquet.
This year's recipients include Centerville seniors David Fleming and Ryan Donnini.
CENTERVILLE – Several of the NFL’s biggest stars with Ohio roots will be in back in the Buckeye State Wednesday for Centerville High School’s Annual Sonny Unger Memorial Scholarship Banquet.
The scholarship fund honors the memory of Lester Sonny Unger, a 1963 Centerville graduate who was a standout on the football field for the Elks and was the only Centerville resident killed in the Vietnam War.
Guest speakers set to appear include former Ohio State Buckeyes Mike Vrabel, Anthony Gonzalez and Centerville natives and OSU standouts Kirk Herbstreit, A.J. Hawk and Mike Nugent.
This year’s award recipients are seniors David Fleming and Ryan Donnini.
Fleming was named the GWOC Player of the Year in 2007
“I am very appreciative of it,” said Fleming. “You look at the past winners and there are a lot of quality people there. Just to be acknowledged as one of those greats is really nice. I am happy and happy for Ryan, too.”
Fleming rushed for 1,040 yards on 148 carries and 14 touchdowns running Centerville’s triple-option offense at quarterback. He also completed 31-of-57 pass attempts for 481 yards and five touchdowns.
Fleming, an Akron defensive back recruit, was named the Greater Western Ohio Conference Co-Player of the Year leading the Elks to a 9-3 record and a conference title.
Donnini earned first team All-GWOC honors on the defensive line registering one sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“It is a big honor to get this award after all the years of putting in work and leading and I know David feels the same way,” Donnini said. “A.J. Hawk and Mike Nugent and all those guys led their teams and are in the NFL now. So, it is a great honor.”
And with the example set by those at Centerville that went before him, Fleming is aiming to one day end up alongside those former Elks now playing in the NFL.
“I wish to be (in the NFL) someday but you have to take it step by step,” he said. “It is real nice to see them because I looked up to them when I was little. It is going to be something neat for me to experience so it is going to be a lot of fun.”
Donnini, who is headed to the University of Cincinnati to study business, said he will take the lessons he learned on the grid iron in high school and apply them to all phases of life.
Donnini led the Centerville defense his senior season
“As far as making you into a man as the years go on – you come in as freshmen here in high school and you’re immature and don’t know a whole lot,” he said. “It makes you more disciplined and you will go for things and fight for things. And that’s for anything. It doesn’t just have to be in games. You always go for what you want.
“As far as working hard in the classroom, I feel like I have an edge on the other students. That is what I am going to take with me – that discipline and putting work first. That is how this program is.”
Both captains of the Centerviille team last fall, Fleming and Donnini illustrated the leadership for which the Sonny Unger award was created but both are humble in their recognition.
“(Unger) was a leader and stood up for his country and what he believed in,” said Fleming. “Us being captains, we have a role to fill and I believe that we did that as well as we could. And that is pretty much what the Sonny Unger award is.
“I just want to thank the coaches and my players for being there for me. It has been nice.”
Said Donnini, “To be honest, when you look at our class, I think the whole senior class deserves this award. We have a great senior class and I really thought it could be anyone. David and I deserve it but it could have been anyone.
“For me it is just a big honor. Through this program I have learned a lot of things that made me more into a man and I am appreciative of getting this award and I want to thank my coaches, my teammates and my family.”
Sonny Unger Memorial Scholarship Banquet
When: Wednesday, April 23. Doors open at 5:00 p.m., dinner at 6:00 p.m. and the programs begins at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Dayton Convention Center Tickets: $75 individual, $650 corporate table (seats 10), $1,000 VIP table (seats 10, access to VIP room with special guests before the event);
The evening will also include a silent auction and the guest speakers will focus on life playing professional football.
A limited number of tickets will be sold.
Contact: Centerville Athletic Department 937-439-3516