Waid’s impact far beyond one contest

CANTON

Mark Waid sat at a table with three of his teammates in the underbelly of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, awaiting questions from a few area reporters. His body language dictated he’d rather be someplace else instead of having an Ohio High School Athletic Association microphone in front of his face, which I couldn’t blame him.

It was one of the few times the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Girard High School senior quarterback had his helmet off all night. Waid took his fair share of bumps and bruises following a 42-14 loss in the Division IV state championship game against a fiercely competitive Cincinnati Wyoming team, but so did his teammates.

It’s been a unified front all year, even though Waid has been the face of this Indians football team for the past three seasons. He is as humble of a person as you will meet. Seriously, I’m not trying to be nice. Waid is thankful he plays for this Girard team which made it to the state championship game for the first time in school history, not because of the notoriety, but the relationships he’s cultivated.

A runner-up trophy is sometimes said to be the first loser, but that’s further from the truth here. This Indians team superseded expectations of those outside the tight-knit walls of the Girard community. Those in this southern Trumbull County town knew better, well aware of the potential of this group of dedicated young men. Seniors, some who have played in the youth leagues since 8 or 9 years old, pointed to this time, playing for a state championship.

Waid joined the Girard brotherhood just prior to high school and grew in the Indians culture, quickly becoming one with this community, enveloping its blue-collar traits.

Maybe it was the moment, seeing Wyoming celebrate on the same field? Not surprisingly, Waid took full responsibility for Saturday’s loss, apologizing to his adopted town, teammates and coaches. The honor to wear the red and black was his. He just wanted to make his team and family proud. Coach Pat Pearson let his forlorn leader know what he meant.

“I told Marky it’s his fault, it is his fault we’re in the state championship,” Pearson said. “This kid is unbelievable, heart and soul. Most unselfish kid I’ve ever been around.

“I love him.”

I understand what Waid wanted to convey, but he missed his long-term impact. He ranks top 15 in the nation in passing yards. Waid has more than 11,000 passing and 4,000 rushing yards in his playing career at Girard. More than the numbers, he made everyone around him that much better, working with them tirelessly in the offseason. That is the true definition of a leader.

He has nothing to apologize for Saturday’s game, noble as his intention may have been. I’m sure his teammates, coaches and people of Girard would echo the same sentiments. Waid led this year’s pride of the Mahoning Valley into a state championship game, earning respect week by week. Waid, Aidan Warga, Jack DelGarbino, Morgan Clardy and a host of other offensive and defensive players from Girard won’t be defined by one game, not around here.

Waid is verbally committed to Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y., but Youngstown State University has offered the offensive juggernaut. This area, me included, would love to see Waid trade in the red and black of Girard for the same colors donned by YSU. The earliest Waid can sign with his university of choice is December 19.

Wherever he goes, the pain of Saturday’s loss is going to linger in his mind.

“Not a day is going to go by where I’m not going to regret tonight, where I second guess everything,” Waid said. “I’m going to use that motivation for my career and every day life.”

The next chapter in Waid’s journey is a must read of this unfinished novel.

COMMENTS