January 5 is my wife’s birthday. It’s also important for another reason. It’s the day an Ohio legend takes the field for one last time as an Ohio State Buckeye.
Lest you think Todd Boeckman is not worthy of such praise, think again. And hard.
January 5 is my wife’s birthday. It’s also important for another reason.
It’s the day an Ohio legend takes the field for one last time as an Ohio State Buckeye.
Lest you think Todd Boeckman is not worthy of such praise, think again. And hard.
Boeckman isn’t just a sixth year senior who lost his starting job to a freshman sensation. Boeckman once was that freshman sensation. He also starred as a sophomore, junior and senior at St. Henry High School.
Few prep athletes in Ohio high school history have done what Boeckman accomplished in his four years at St. Henry.
Few to come will match it.
As a freshman Boeckman played in the football, basketball AND baseball state championship games. He won a state title in the latter.
His senior year Boeckman closed out his high school career with another state baseball title.
Most athletes don’t sniff one state title game. Let alone play in three as a freshman and four overall.
And don’t think Boeckman just rode the seniors coattails to those title tilts as a back up on the bench. He supplied his share of the excitement and fuel.
I’ve cheered Boeckman for years and I admit I’m biased. I’m a fan.
I know some are not.
One thing you cannot deny is Boeckman’s character. Another is his standing among Ohio’s high school athletic greats.
You’ll find Boeckman’s name among the leaders in multiple state records and sports.
In football Boeckman ranks No. 15 in career passing yards (7,021 yards, 1999-2002), No. 18 in career passing TDs (64, 1999-2002) and No. 71 in yards in a season (2,520 in 1999 as a freshman).
In baseball Boeckman is tied for No. 2 in Ohio history for most RBI in a season (66 in 2003). Since his performance no one else has hit more than 56.
He’s also tied for No. 3 for HRs in a season (18 in 2003), tied for No. 3 with HRs in five straight games (2003), tied for No. 4 in HRs for a career (40 from 2000-2003) and No. 12 for most RBI in a career (140 (00-03).
On the mound Boeckman is tied for No. 8 in most consecutive wins (19, 2001-03).
The 2003 St. Henry team, Boeckman’s senior year, ranks No. 3 all-time in Ohio for hits in a season (389).
In basketball Boeckman ended his career No. 9 on St. Henry’s career scoring list with over 1,000 points. He led the Redskins in scoring and rebounding his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
Monday, Boeckman, who was first team Big Ten last year, plays his last football game as a Buckeye. Word is he and freshman QB Terrelle Pryor will share the same field at times.
The following story is a result of the first interview I shared with Boeckman.
I’d watched him play several times, but in the spring of 2003 I sought out Boeckman at St. Henry. Went to baseball practice and held interviews in the dugout.
Roughly two weeks after that meeting the following story ran as the cover story in the ninth issue of the Miami Valley Sports Magazine, which was in its first year of existence.
Roughly three weeks after the story was released Boeckman led the Redskins to another state baseball title. In a 3-2 win over Columbus Academy, Boeckman was the winning pitcher, allowing three hits and striking out four in four scoreless innings. He went 1-for-4 at the plate with a run scored.
Todd Boeckman is a winner. Lest you think not, think again. And hard.
BIG GAME HUNTER: Few athletes in Ohio history share the credentials of St. Henry three-sport standout Todd Boeckman
(Cover Story: MVP, Vol. 1, Issue 9, May 2003)
When asked to recall one moment where Todd Boeckman made his mouth drop, St. Henry head baseball coach John Dorner mentioned the two times Boeckman hit three home runs in a game.
Then, he remembered something else.
“I also remember last year, Todd hit two home runs over the light post in centerfield,” Dorner said. “And in one instance – and I’m not exaggerating here – the ball was still going up as it went over the light pole. That’s probably a 500-foot shot, and I’m not kidding.”
If it seems like Dorner was trying extra hard to add legitimacy to his claims, it’s simply because some of them may seem outlandish. Of course, where Boeckman is concerned, most of his accomplishments are.
A 6-foot-6, 225-pound senior at St. Henry, Boeckman seems harmless enough at first glance.
He’s slender, polite and shows a hint of shyness. His favorite TV show is the Simpsons. His favorite food is pizza. His hobbies include playing cards and PlayStation.
What you don’t see from these ordinary things is just how extraordinary Boeckman is.
To witness that you need to watch him play baseball…or basketball…or football.
“I think we’re looking at something extremely rare here in the fact that someone can excel at all three sports like he can,” St. Henry boys basketball coach Joe Niekamp said. “With the time constraints put on athletes these days, it’s amazing that he can do what he does. It’s very, very rare.”
In a time when elementary-aged kids are being told to thwart multiple sports in favor of one, Boeckman is the posterchild of the past – when athletes regularly played two or three sports for their high school. He’s also the posterchild for near perfection. You see Boeckman doesn’t just play three sports, he commands the spotlight in each.
A four-year varsity player in everything who will earn All-Ohio honors six times combined before his high school career is over, Boeckman’s accomplishments overshadow the majority of athletes who have come before him. His standards leave a huge hill for future stars to climb.
“He’s the kind of guy who will say ‘Watch this’ and then he’ll just turn around and throw up a fullcourt shot and it will swish,” three-sport teammate and fellow senior Adam Gast said. “He just does that kind of stuff at random. In baseball he’ll tell us he feels like hitting a home run and then he goes to the plate and does it. He has these moments where he just does this stuff that’s ridiculous. He’s such a great athlete that it’s ridiculous what he can do.”
Here’s a sampling.
His freshman year, Boeckman appeared in each the football, basketball and baseball state championship games, winning a state title in the latter.
He’s the ninth leading scorer in St. Henry boys basketball history with just over 1,000 points and he led the Redskins in rebounding and scoring the last three seasons. He was named first team all-state in basketball the last two years.
Boeckman held the school record for home runs in a season with 13 entering this year, but broke that this spring with No. 14 during a game against Lima Central Catholic on May 12. The shot was his fourth round-tripper in two games. As a pitcher he’s 13-0 the past two seasons, including last year’s mark of 11-0 which earned him second team all-state recognition. He was first team as a designated hitter as a sophomore and more than likely will be first team this year as an outfielder.
As a quarterback, he started all four years and was named all-state as a sophomore. He finished his high school career with 7,021 yards and 64 touchdowns and in August of 2002 he accepted a football scholarship from defending national champion Ohio State.
“I just grew up with a football, baseball and basketball in my hands,” Boeckman said. “I’ve been playing all three since second grade.”
And that’s when Boeckman’s story in St. Henry begins.
Although Tim Boeckman, Todd’s father, had been head coach at St. Henry since 1981, the Boeckman family didn’t come to the community until Todd’s older brother Trent entered high school. Todd was in the second grade.
“We originally lived in Coldwater because I wasn’t sure I wanted my kids being in the same district I was coaching in, but then when Trent got in eighth-grade I decided I wasn’t going to coach against my kids so we moved,” Tim Boeckman said.
As Todd recalls the relocation: “My dad said St. Henry was a great community to come to and that it had great tradition. He said he wanted us to experience it for ourselves.”
Instead of simply experiencing the tradition, Boeckman added to it.
Playing organized football for the first time in seventh-grade because St. Henry doesn’t have a youth program, Boeckman established himself then as an athlete equipped with promise.
“Looking back and seeing how a coaches son grows up, I really think they’re at an advantage,” Tim Boeckman said. “You’re always in the gym or on the field and those guys get to go along when they get old enough and they just pick things up. They get to see behind the scenes. I can still remember Todd being a water boy, a ball boy and a stat boy. We didn’t really notice him athletically until middle school, but that’s when you could see and sense that there was something special about him.”
Boeckman came in as a freshman and started his first season in the most high profile position in prep athletics – varsity quarterback. Taking the reigns of a team that lost 17-13 to eventual Division VI state champion Delphos St. John’s in the regional finals the year before, Boeckman took control of what could’ve been a sticky situation and made the most of it.
“(The decision to start him at quarterback as a freshman) was a little difficult,” Tim Boeckman said. “We talked about it as a coaching staff, though, and when all was said and done the animosity was small. I think everyone realized that was the best situation we had at the time.”
Including the seniors.
“Todd was really blessed his freshman year to be around a group of seniors who accepted him,” Tim Boeckman said. “We’ve had a few freshman start here and it can be difficult to be accepted by the older kids, but they did it with Todd and took him in.”
He, in return, helped take them to the state title game.
After moving up to Division V, St. Henry defeated Versailles, Parkway, Twin Valley South and Liberty Center en route to a date with Amanda-Clearcreek in the championship. The Redskins lost 35-20.
“That was definitely exciting and crazy,” said Boeckman who threw for 2,520 yards and 23 touchdowns as a frosh. “I’d never been that excited in my life going into a game. Being a freshman and walking out there and starting was unbelievable. I can’t even describe it.”
Four months later Boeckman was speechless again as the Redskins advanced to the Division IV state final in basketball. In a semifinal victory over No. 1 ranked Worthington Christian, Boeckman had nine points in 14 minutes of action. In the state title game, a 64-58 loss to Ft. Jennings, he had five points in 11 minutes.
“I remember thinking at the time when we went to state in basketball that that shouldn’t be happening,” Boeckman said. “I mean that was crazy to go to two state games.”
Then it was three.
A few months after going to Columbus to perform at the Schottenstein Center, Boeckman went back with the baseball squad to play at Bill Davis Stadium. This time the Redskins got their championship. Defending their 1999 state title, St. Henry beat Berlin Hiland 4-3.
“Making the state tournament is just an incredible feeling,” Boeckman said. “I just want to get back there and have everyone feel the way I felt. It was amazing.”
And thus, Boeckman has spent the last three years trying to get back. This baseball season will be his last attempt.
“Last year we made the regional finals and lost to Ft. Loramie,” Boeckman said. “That has pushed us that much harder this year.”
No matter whom you talk to, they all say hard work has elevated Boeckman to his current height. And they also add that despite his success, Boeckman does more walking than talking.
“Todd is very unselfish and he’s never brought the spotlight to himself,” Dorner said. “He’s never asked for anything more than anyone else. He works just as hard as anyone else and he’s just one of the guys. He goes about his work and those are the things that make him special. A lot of high school sports stars know they’re stars and almost want to be treated differently. He’s not like that.”
As Gast describes it: “Physically he’s a lot stronger than a lot of other athletes, but he’s just an all-around great athlete. He was born with it, but he works really hard to stay on top. It could be 30-degrees outside and he’ll still be out there shooting baskets and throwing the football. In the summer he does something every day.”
According to Niekamp that’s to be expected.
“He has a kind of commitment very few people know about,” the coach said. “He has sacrificed.”
Forced to give up two of the three sports when deciding on his collegiate focus, Boeckman, some feel, is forgoing the possibility of successful careers in both basketball and baseball.
“I sometimes wonder what he could do if he just played basketball,” Niekamp said. “And the same can be said for baseball.”
Added Dorner: “With his skills and ability, there’s no doubt he could play Division I baseball.”
Boeckman will be playing Division I football in Columbus, albeit not this fall.
In a move rarely heard of, Ohio State has decided to “grayshirt” the soon-to-be St. Henry grad.
“Basically what it means is I get my scholarship in January after the first semester,” said Boeckman, adding that his decision to redshirt the season after that is “a great opportunity for me because it gives me two years separation from the freshman quarterbacks (Justin Zwick and Troy Smith) that are there now.”
Deciding on the Buckeyes wasn’t nearly as hard as the wait will be for Boeckman before he takes the field. Offered scholarships from “10-15” schools including Maryland and Pitt, his other top two choices, Boeckman decided on Ohio State early – say during childhood.
“I knew basically all along that I was going to go to Ohio State, but I just wanted to see if there was anything out there that was better for me and what I realized is there isn’t anything better than the tradition and education Ohio State can offer,” Boeckman said. “Ohio State was head and shoulders above the rest as far as I’m concerned.”
And being concerned with competition isn’t something that’s going to affect Boeckman once he reaches OSU.
“I told him it doesn’t matter where you go – Ohio State, that school up North, Pitt, Maryland – because they’re all going to bring in guys the next year at your position that are just as good as you or better and all you can do is compete,” Tim Boeckman said. “The big key is staying healthy and letting the chips fall. I think the sky’s the limit for him and who knows what will happen, but I know he’ll give it his all.”
Added Boeckman: “All I want to do is compete and make the team better.”
Throughout its storied tradition, St. Henry has had more than its share of great athletes compete at the highest level.
Currently Bobby Hoying and Jeff Hartings, members of St. Henry’s first football state title team in 1990, play in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively. Hoying attended Ohio State while Hartings went to Penn State. Prior to that, Jim Lachey played at Ohio State and earned All-American honors before moving on to a stellar career with the Washington Redskins.
“I’d definitely like to take the route of Hoying and Hartings,” Boeckman said.
Some believe he’s already ahead of them at this stage, or at least on par.
“As a pure athlete, Todd, if he’s not the best, is one of the best who has ever gone to school here in my opinion and that’s because of his success in three sports,” Dorner said. “Bobby Hoying was a very good athlete, but he basically played football and basketball and had great success in both, but I think Todd rates right up there with the Hoyings and the Lacheys and people like that of St. Henry’s past. I guess it just remains to be seen what he can do in the future. You don’t want to put too much pressure on him, but the skills are there and I expect that with a lot of work he can be just as successful as a lot of those other Redskins.”
Added Tim Boeckman: “I think he rates right up there with those guys. They’ve all done a fantastic job.”
Boeckman’s best job is taking control at crucial moments, and for this he may be remembered the most. Despite being a constant performer, Boeckman has earned a reputation for wanting the ball – any ball – when the game is on the line.
In fact, it’s a moment like this that both Niekamp and Gast recall making their mouths drop.
“He’s made so many big plays and shots in games that I can’t even think of where to start,” Niekamp said. “I do remember this year, though, that he made a 3-pointer at the buzzer at Ft. Loramie to win it for us on the road.”
Added Gast: “I remember this year we were playing Ft. Loramie in basketball and we were down two with four seconds left. He has to shoot a last second shot and he hits a three. He came around a screen, got the ball and shot while fading away and hit it. That’s just the type of thing he does.”
And lives for.
“We were out of timeouts at the end of that game and the kids looked each other in the eye and knew what to do,” Niekamp said. “They knew where to get the ball and Todd made the big shot. He thrives in those situations and he raises his game to a higher level.”
Boeckman has been playing at a higher level all along.