All-Ohio quarterback Craft has ‘chosen not to play football this year’


Liberty-Benton senior Aaron Craft will not be playing football this season. (Photo by Gary Housteau)

One of the most prolific quarterbacks in Ohio has decided to hang up his cleats a year early.

Aaron Craft, who was the Division V Player
of the Year
last season, has decided to forgo his senior season on the
grid iron at Findlay Liberty-Benton to focus on his senior basketball season and future hoops
career with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

One of the most prolific quarterbacks in Ohio has decided to hang up his cleats a year early.

Aaron Craft, who was the Division V Player
of the Year
last season, has decided to forgo his senior season on the
grid iron at Findlay Liberty-Benton to focus on his senior basketball season and future hoops
career with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Monday, Aug. 3 was the first day the Ohio High School Athletic Association permitted official team practices but Craft was conspicuously absent from L-B’s first practice.

“I have chosen not to play football this year,” said Craft, who led L-B to a 14-1 record and state runner-up finish last season. “That way, I can focus on basketball and make myself ready to play at Ohio State this following year.”

The decision wasn’t easy for Craft, who completed over 80 percent of his pass attempts last season
accounting for over 4,000 yards of total offense and 57 touchdowns.

He started at quarterback for L-B as a freshman earning All-Ohio recognition his three seasons under center for the Eagles.

“It was pretty hard. Growing up and playing football from sixth grade on, you dream about that senior year playing with your classmates and being out there,” he said.

Craft said he spoke with the team about his decision and said his former teammates were receptive and offered to let him stand on the sideline for games this fall.

“They were really good about it and understood,” he said. “It will probably hurt for a few games but it will eventually all even out. I know it’s going to be tough knowing I could be out there with them.

“I asked them (about standing on the sidelines during games) and they said I could so basically it is going to come down how I am feeling about the whole situation.”

The decision was even tougher knowing his last high school football game was the 21-0 loss to Youngstown Ursuline in the state championship game last November. After throwing only three interceptions all season, Craft was picked off four times in the game. He completed 18-of-27 pass attempts for 157 yards and ran for 44 more yards as the Eagles failed to score despite averaging 46.4 points per game.

“It made it harder knowing that was the last time I’d ever play,” he said. “Last year I tried to focus as much as I could on that year and didn’t want to think about the future or be distracted by that.

“Thoughts (about not playing senior year) didn’t really start coming until a few weeks after that last game.”

Despite the bitter end to last season, Craft still looks fondly upon his high school football career.

“I believe I had a great career,” he said. “I got to play in the state championship and so many kids in high school don’t get to experience that – we came out on the wrong end of it – but I still got to experience it in Massillon. So, overall I think I had a pretty good career.”

He added, “It will probably sting for a little bit and maybe the first time I go watch (the team) this season but I had to do what was best for myself and my future.”

A future that includes suiting up for the Ohio State basketball program.

“There is always the risk factor of getting injured (playing football) and I had to do what was best for me in the long run,” he said.

Senior Brett Pasche will take the
snaps for L-B this season

Next In Line

Stepping in under center this season for L-B is senior Brett Pasche, who was featured at receiver and linebacker last season.

“He has played quarterback since sixth grade,” Craft said. “He is a pretty good quarterback so there shouldn’t be much of a drop off. He has a good arm and he is a pretty good athlete, too, so they’re still pretty set at the quarterback position.”

Going Out On Top

Craft’s football career with L-B isn’t the only career he has put in the books.

Craft wrapped up his AAU basketball career this past weekend with the heralded All-Ohio Red team by defeating Boo Williams 76-66 in the 17-and-under national championship game in Orlando, Florida.

It marked the third straight national title for All-Ohio Red – a feat that has never been accomplished. All-Ohio Red finished its three-year run with an astounding 201-9 record. More impressive, they won 29-of-32 tournaments entered.

“(The national championship) is pretty cool but it is hard to realize that my AAU career is over as well as everyone else’s on the team,” said Craft. “But I am really happy with what we accomplished winning that third national championship.”

All-Ohio Red features future Ohio State teammates Jared Sullinger (Columbus Northland), Jordan Sibert (Cincinnati Princeton) and Ohio State prospect J.D. Weatherspoon (Columbus Northland).

“We’re really excited about (playing at Ohio State). Hopefully J.D. comes in but right now Jared, Jordan and I are real excited to continue playing with each other,” Craft said.

No Longer A Volunteer

Craft, a point guard, originally issued a verbal commitment to Tennessee and eccentric head coach Bruce Pearl but rescinded his pledge to the Volunteers in May and committed to Ohio State in early June.

Craft said distance from home was the main reason for changing his mind.

“Everything just kind fell of in place. It is only an hour and forty-five minutes from my house, so that was a big plus,” he said. “I wanted to be closer to my family and closer to people I could talk to if I needed to.

“I went down to visit and it is just a great place to be. I had fun, talked to the coaches and just felt it would be the best place for me.”

Rated as the No. 24 point guard in the country by ESPN’s Scouts, Inc. and unranked for football, Craft knew his future was in basketball.

So did college coaches.

“(Not playing football senior year) was brought up a little bit from Ohio State and they weren’t sure it would be the best thing for me to play but they had it open for me if I wanted to,” he explained. “Most of the (college coaches) know you’re only in high school once so you should be able to do what you want to do and need to do.

“It basically came down to me and what I thought would be best for me and my future.”

First Thing’s First

Craft, a first team All-Ohio selection last season with 19.1 points per game, is looking forward to his senior season on the hardwood with L-B.

Although, this season will be somewhat different than the previous three seasons for him.

“I have never spent a fall with the high school team since I’ve always been playing football, so this is kind of a new experience for me,” he said. “I am going to have to feel around and see how it is going to be.

“I am just going to continue to work on what I know I need to do to get better and make myself ready for next season.”

Craft led L-B to the Division III state title game as a freshman where the Eagles finished runners-up to the North College Hill.

Getting back to Columbus in 2010 is definitely a goal for Craft.

“There is always a chance (we could get back to the state tournament),” he said. “It just depends on how much everyone wants it and how much we’re going to work this fall. I think we’ll have a good chance because we have people who will want to work.

“That is always a plus and you can always work with that.”

*     *     *

Craft is not the only D-V All-Ohio senior gridder that will not be suiting up in the Buckeye State this season.

We reported Monday that Jamel Turner from L-B’s state title game opponent Youngstown Ursuline will not be playing for the Irish this fall and is enrolled at Valley Forge (Pa.) Military Academy.

Turner, whose status as an Ohio State football verbal commitment is up in the air, accounted for 1.5 sacks on Craft in the state championship game last season.

He was a first team All-Ohio selection on defense.


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