COLUMBUS (AP) — Keishaun Sims has been described as a quiet leader, a person of few words.
So, when the Massillon Perry senior running back was asked if he had a favorite memory from an eventful season, one that has seen the Panthers reach the Division II championship game just two years after going 0-10, he paused.
He let the silence hang, “No, they’re all good. I like them all.”
Sims laughed at his own response but has reasons to smile after being named Thursday as the 2015 Associated Press Mr. Football for Ohio in voting by a media panel.
He enters the game against Cincinnati La Salle (12-2) Friday at 8 p.m. in Ohio Stadium with 3,108 yards and a 7.9 yards average for 393 carries along with 43 touchdowns this season.
He also is a cornerback and returned an interception for another score.
“He doesn’t come off for anything,” Perry athletics director Scott Campbell said. “He plays every down — offense, defense, special teams.”
Head coach Keith Wakefield knows the standard response when wondering if Sims gets tired.
“He always says, ‘I rest at halftime,’” Wakefield said. “He has this focus and willingness to finish every play. A lot of kids go down on a play. He refuses to go down and continues to run. It’s that mentality. There’s no let up in his game, none. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Despite his slight build (6-0, 170), Sims runs the ball 28 times a game out of the wing-T offense where running is always the preferred choice. He ran for a school-record 349 yards in the regional semifinals.
“We put in a lot of work, the line puts in a lot of hard work,” Sims said. “The coaches are always there to help us. They’ve taught me a lot about how to run.”
The memories of the winless 2013 season still drive the Panthers (12-2).
“It shows the character of the kids to hang in there and not lose heart,” Wakefield said. “We were 6-5 last year and got to the playoffs. Keishaun has taken it upon himself to change to program….Yet, he’s one of the humblest kids you’ll ever meet, very unassuming.”
Sims will square off Friday against the player who finished second in the Mr. Football voting, La Salle’s senior running back Jeremy Larkin.
Past Mr. Football winners include Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson (Fremont Ross, 1994), former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett (Warren Harding, 2001) and last year’s recipient, Athens High quarterback Joe Burrow, who is at Ohio State.
“I looked him up last week because I knew he won it,” Sims said. “I’m at a loss for receiving this honor.”
Wakefield said Sims has attracted interest from MAC schools and he could have a good career there.
“He can play defense at that level, maybe for an offense somewhere,” the coach said. “He may not be able to carry 30 times. We don’t throw much, but he’s got good hands.”
Sims is ready for his last high school game, and for it to be in an iconic venue — Ohio Stadium — makes it even more special.
“Not many people get the chance to do it,” he said. “I’m going to try to take it all in.”