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Jeff and Cindy Rhubottom. (Contributed photos)

   A flashback to the days when Rhubottom terrorized Wolf rivals on the hardwood.

   The socks were extraordinary, and so was their ability to put the ball in the hoop.

“Respect yourself. Respect your school.”

Jeff Rhubottom was one of the best athletes to ever walk the hallways of Coupeville High School, and he lived by that credo.

A 6-foot-4 tower of power, the 1978 Wolf grad was a 12-time letter winner (four times each in football, basketball and track and field), a two-time All-Conference hoops player and the school record holder in the high jump for more than a decade.

While fellow football player Rich Wilson (6-4) nipped Rhubottom’s mark (6-2) in 2000 — and retains the school record 17 years later — Rhubottom’s legacy still looms large.

He torched the basketball nets for 459 points his senior season in 1977-1978, the second-best single-season mark ever put up a Wolf, boy or girl.

Over the course of four seasons, while sharing the ball with some of the biggest scorers and sweetest shooters in CHS hoops history, he finished with 1,012 points.

In 100 seasons of Wolf boys basketball, only Jeff Stone (1137), Mike Bagby (1104) and Rhubottom contemporary Randy Keefe (1088) have topped that.

While he enjoyed his other sports (he was a tight end/outside linebacker in football and a sprinter, relay runner and state meet-qualifying high jumper on the track oval), basketball was always Rhubottom’s favorite.

“Making the starting five on the varsity squad in basketball my sophomore year” was a particular highlight, which allowed him to “play with great athletes like Bill Jarrell, Randy Keefe, Marc Bisset and Foster Faris.”

That unit played for legendary CHS coach Bob Barker, a man who had a huge positive impact on Rhubottom.

“Coach Barker (was a favorite) for his professionalism,” Rhubottom said. “I remember him quoting as he was handing out our red blazers, ‘You’re representing yourself as an athlete and you’re representing Coupeville High School’.”

CHS football coach Pat Lippincott and track guru Craig Pedlar (“great teacher, great coach”) also helped shaped the young Rhubottom into the man he became.

“Coach Pedlar brought Michael Ellsworth, Jeff Fielding, and myself to the State A Finals in Yakima in 1978,” Rhubottom said. “It was great to be involved with great athletes of the school.

“It’s what you did on Friday nights.”

Whether it was standing tall at the state tourney or ripping through the line to block a punt against Concrete, before scooping up the loose ball and taking it to the house for a touchdown, Rhubottom played with passion, for himself and his teammates.

“I loved and respected the athletic program, playing with great athletes in a small town.”

The lessons he learned as a Wolf benefited Rhubottom as he went on to build his own family (he has a son, Jeff, Jr.) and a career in the painting business.

“Working hard and being responsible and trying to stay in the best physical shape as the years go by. Keeping active,” have been his guiding principals.

Rhubottom considers himself “totally blessed,” having been married to Cindy, “the most beautiful, loving wife, mother, and grandmother” until she lost her battle with cancer in September, 2016.

Being “surrounded by loving new and old family” has helped him greatly.

As he looks back at his own career, Rhubottom calls on today’s Wolves to seize the day.

“Respect yourself. Respect your school. Give 110%. Enjoy the experience,” he said. “Have fun, because it goes by quick.

“Keep active. Always love the sport,” Rhubottom added. “It was fun to take a trip down memory road of my athletic career at Coupeville High School. These are memories I will cherish forever.”

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Modern-day Peter Charron.

   As he approaches his 20th high school reunion, former CHS great Peter Charron still has fun in everything he does. (Photos courtesy Charron)

"Flash," back in his CHS football prime, with teammate Jomo Simpkins.

“Flash,” back in his CHS football prime, with teammate Jomo Simpkins.

On a trip to Disneyland with some of his fellow Coupeville cheerleaders.

On a trip to Disneyland with some of his fellow Wolf cheerleaders.

The male half of the CHS co-ed cheer squad.

The male half of the CHS co-ed cheer squad.

Old school track star Charron, ready to bust some records.

Old school track star Charron, ready to bust some records (and maybe his elbow).

“Being smart is more important than how good you can throw a ball.”

“The real power in life is knowledge. The more you have, the better life will be.”

That’s a lesson which has helped guide Peter Charron’s life over the past two decades, as he has transitioned from a stellar high school athlete to a successful businessman and creator.

A 1997 grad from Coupeville High School, where he starred on the football, track and co-ed cheer squads, Charron has gone on to work as everything from a sporting goods store manager to a video game designer to a 3D film converter on films like Top Gun and Man of Steel.

After helping create innovative worlds for others, he’s now in business for himself as a graphic designer/concept artist, while still finding some time to dabble in the world of 3D modeling.

Approaching a decade of marriage (while raising “two silly dogs”), Charron lives in California these days, but Coupeville is never far from his thoughts.

“Lots of memories. I always enjoyed how parenting a lot of the teachers and the administration was,” he said. “Mr. (Rock) White was a cool Principal.”

Charron joined the football and track team his final two years, using his speed (he wore a superhero t-shirt under his gridiron jersey in honor of his nickname “Flash”) and grit to leave a lasting impact.

One of the better throwers CHS has seen, he looks back on his prep sports career fondly.

“One of my favorite sports memories was after a football game, the coach from the opposite team came up to me and told me ‘you played an outstanding game, good job.’,” Charron said. “I was a little floored by that.”

Battling through an injured elbow, he couldn’t resist trying to pull out a win in the javelin at a home meet, leaving everyone around him impressed.

“I was not supposed to compete, but when I heard the numbers coming in, I felt I could win, and got my coaches OK,” Charron said. “I remember coming over to the area and setting up for my approach.

“While standing there getting prepared to throw, I heard kids from the other schools hushing each other and quietly saying things like “oh, it’s this guy” and “be quiet and watch him throw”.

“It was cool to hear; Hell, I know it made me try harder that day.”

In true Charron style, he won the event, then agreed to another toss to make sure a photographer got a good picture, even though his elbow was throbbing.

When he wasn’t trying to rip his arm off as a thrower, Charron was a hard-charging attack man on the football return team (“lots of hitting!,” he said with a big chuckle) who also helped bring home numerous cheer trophies.

In the mid-’90s CHS had a co-ed cheer team with a strong contingent of male athletes, allowing the Wolves to be a full competition squad capable of pulling off much bigger stunts.

Charron also worked with a combined program that was set up with Coupeville and Oak Harbor which went to nationals his senior year.

Looking back, he credits Coupeville football coaches Ron Bagby and Willie Smith for their help and teammates Jomo Simpkins and Pete Petrov for having a huge impact on him.

“On and off the field, those guys were great!”

As time goes by, he admits he hasn’t worried much about what his legacy might be at his alma mater.

“Wow, um, I mean if any of them do still remember me, that’s awesome!” Charron said with a laugh. “I hope that I would be remembered as someone who gave it all no matter what sport or event, and always tried to treat everyone equal and fairly.

“And finally, that I was a good friend.”

His time at CHS, and his time in the arena, helped make him the successful man he is now, and Charron hopes others take advantage of the same opportunities.

“Playing sports did impact my life,” he said. “They gave me the necessary skills to play in community leagues as I got older to try and stay in shape.

“They also gave me drive to work harder, and push myself to be the best I could be in work and life,” Charron added. “I have shocked a lot of people with how far I can throw a football because of throwing the javelin in track.”

If he and his wife have children, he would “love to see them follow my footsteps in playing sports.”

“I believe it helps strengthen a person’s ability to socialize, learning to work as a team, to trust in and be trusted to have each others backs,” Charron said. “Also one of the biggest things, is it helps you learn to deal with loss or disappointment. It’s after a loss that you show your true character.

“Bottom line is, no matter what my future children want to do, I will give them 100% encouragement, never telling them they cannot do something … unless that thing is illegal, then I will tell them not to do that.”

As a new generation takes the field for CHS, Charron has some simple, but very sound advice for them.

“Stay away from drugs. I had many friends lose out on playing sports because of that,” he said. “Get good grades and my advice would be to treat everyone fairly.

“Make the time to get to know everyone at school; it’s not that big, you can do it.”

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Modern-day Bill Riley. (Photo courtesy Riley)

Modern-day Bill Riley. (Photo courtesy Riley)

“I hope that my teammates and coaches that are still alive today would say I was a good teammate.”

Bill Riley remains one of the most talented athletes to ever represent Coupeville High School, the second ever to be named CHS Athlete of the Year, but he was never concerned with being showy or drawing attention.

Instead, he was a highly successful three-sport athlete by focusing on what he could add to a team.

“Stay humble, let your performance on the court or field be all you need to say,” Riley said. “No need to bring any attention to yourself or celebrate excessively after a great play.

“People will know you did well without the theatrics.”

And the 1973 CHS grad did as well as any athlete to ever pull on the uniform, an All-League First-Team pick in basketball and football (on both sides of the ball) who also went to the state track and field meet as a long jumper.

On the hardwood he was on the 1969-1970 hoops squad that became the first in school history to go to state, then later compiled the second-best single-season scoring average in program history.

Put him on the gridiron and he was a monster, or, at the very least, played a position known as “monster,” which gave him the ability to follow the ball (“That was fun!”) at all times.

It worked, as league coaches honored him for his work as a safety and floating linebacker, as well as his offensive game as a running back and flanker.

So it came with little surprise when Riley was tabbed as his school’s Athlete of the Year in ’73, making him the successor to Corey Cross, who won the first two times the award was handed out.

Following in his teammate’s footsteps remains an honor for Riley.

“I had the deepest respect for Corey,” he said. “He was a natural leader.”

As an athlete, Riley soaked up lessons from those around him, and the men who were coaching him, lessons which have impacted him throughout the years.

“No question, Coach (Bob) Barker was a significant influence,” Riley said. “I looked up to the upperclassmen, Randy Duggan, Corey Cross of course, Jeff Stone, Pat O’Grady.

“On the coach front Craig Pedlar (track and JV BB). In football, Coach Steele, Lippincott, Hosek and legendary football coach Sid Otton were all important figures during those development years.”

With the passage of time, athletes of the ’70s, who put together a truly golden era in Coupeville, may not be as well-remembered as they once were, but the town remains largely the same.

“Those memories are long gone for most people that lived in Coupeville when I was playing sports,” Riley said. “What is irreplaceable, and I believe so special about Coupeville, is how the entire town would support the team.

“Small schools and their towns seem to have that closeness with their teams,” he added. “It felt like the movie Hoosiers at Coupeville during basketball season.”

Riley, who fondly remembers the run to state in ’70 (he was a last-minute selection as a freshman when another player was injured), tempers that with a bit of sadness over his highly-rated ’72 squad falling just short and being knocked out a step away from state by La Conner.

But through good times and bad, the sport remains his favorite, and one he is still active in today.

While he gave up playing in 2008 after a hip replacement, he has been involved in sponsoring teams at the 3A/4A state tourneys in Tacoma for many years.

“Basketball was the best sport because it has kindled a love for the game to this day,” Riley said. “I still believe that high school basketball is the purest form of the game.

“For the last 14 years I have been able to be with the players and coaches, at practices, in the locker room and meals when they come to the Tacoma Dome for three days.

“It’s penance for not making it in 1972, I suppose,” he said with a laugh. “In a sense I get to go every year to the state tourney, living it thru the teams I sponsor.”

The one-time prep sports star grew up to get an undergraduate degree in Business Finance and an MBA, and has been involved in real estate brokerage, investment, property management, construction and land development since 1978.

As he’s progressed through the business world, Riley has used sports lessons to shape modern-day decisions.

“So many lessons to be learned from playing sports — competition, leadership, working together for a common goal are all attributes that have helped me in business,” he said. “Having good mentors at an impressionable age was invaluable.

“I specifically remember Coach Barker using the term “we were a poised team” in 1972 after coming back and winning the Kings Garden game,” Riley added. “I believe we were down double digits late in the fourth quarter.

“Winning games, sometimes by small margins, provided a great lesson on remaining calm during times of stress and has helped me in business.”

Riley’s daughter, who followed her dad into the business world, is 30 now, and if he ends up with athletic grandchildren, the former Wolf ace will be quick to help the newest generation.

“I would help them aspire towards competitive sports because it taught me so much about life, but only if they initially show a liking.”

As he looks back on his own fond memories and surveys the modern-day sports scene, Riley has one very important lesson to pass on.

“Soak it in; it goes by fast,” he said. “Never feel that you’re great or good enough; there is always something you can work on to make you and your game better.”

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Former Wolf lineman Nate Steele, a key member of the undefeated 1990 CHS football squad, with wife Shantina. (Photo copyright Peak Performance)

  Former Wolf lineman Nate Steele, a key member of the undefeated 1990 CHS football squad, with wife Shantina. (Photo copyright Peak Performance Chiropractic)

“I will always appreciate the small-town, close-knit bonds that Coupeville produces.”

From his days as a three-sport star for the Wolves to his current life as a chiropractor following in his dad’s large footsteps, Nate Steele has made a huge impact on his town, and vice versa.

Before he helped to anchor the line for the last great CHS football team, the undefeated league champ 1990 squad, he was just a local kid growing up with people he has stayed close to as the years have passed.

“I went K-12 with most of my classmates, admittedly a challenge when it came to dating,” Steele said with a laugh. “But it also forged life-long friendships.”

By the time he graduated in 1992, Steele had starred on the football gridiron, the basketball court and as a “field” athlete.

“Er … track, but no running, thanks. I just threw the heavy stuff around.”

While he enjoyed all of his sports, football stands out, especially his junior year, when the Wolves used a massive line to open huge running holes and give quarterback Jason McFadyen and Co. plenty of time to operate.

Working as part of a cohesive unit was a huge win, even before Coupeville went 9-0 and hosted a state playoff game.

“I enjoy team sports where individual strengths and weakness are all thrown in together,” Steele said. “Personalities and egos may collide, but when the wrinkles get ironed out and players and coaches pull together to produce a winner it’s nothing less than magic.

“We knew going into the ‘90-‘91 season that we had a good chance to be on top of the league,” he added. “The Cascade League held all of our old rivals and those wins were especially sweet.”

That season played out 25 years ago this fall, but it remains crystal clear to Steele, his teammates and a town that faithfully followed their exploits.

“I hope people remember the magic of that season,” he said. “I remember it seemed like the whole town would turn out for games and the crowd kept getting bigger every game.

“Away games began to feel almost like home games as fans caught the fever of our undefeated season.”

While he shared his success with many people, the chance to have his father, Milton Steele, along for the ride, was magical.

“I have good memories of all my coaches, each one having their own impact in developing my character and athleticism. But my greatest coach, hands down, was my father,” Steele said. “He tirelessly coached soccer and little league baseball in Central Whidbey.

“He had fans on the field and in the stands because he was fair and able to motivate while having fun. He encouraged the underachievers, fine-tuned the superstars and played every kid who genuinely wanted to play,” he added.

“In high school, he would video record every game from the crow’s nest high above Mickey Clark Field. He couldn’t wait to review the tape with me on Saturday and we used this tool in the locker room to improve our game as a team.”

Taking advantage of his dad’s lessons on and off the field, Steele followed his pops into the chiropractic profession.

After college, he returned to Whidbey to practice with his father and raise his family, and today owns and operates Peak Performance on Coveland Street with wife Shantina.

Both his time in the arena and in the office have taught Steele the importance of keeping your body well-balanced and tended.

“Consider chiropractic care as a way of offsetting injury and enhancing performance,” he said. “Most professional athletes use chiropractic care to gain or maintain a competitive edge.

“But, in truth, we all need optimal nerve function to be our best. Even armchair quarterbacks can benefit.”

As a new generation of Steeles follows their father’s path, the former Wolf lineman is supportive, without being too pushy.

“I’ve encouraged my kids to participate in sports,” he said. “Of course, it is a calculated risk to expose yourself to injury, especially in contact sports, yet the experience of building camaraderie and working collectively towards a goal are priceless life lessons.”

And the biggest lesson he took away from his time as an athlete?

“Cooperation. This underpins every successful endeavor,” Steele said. “Mediocre teams can achieve great success in synergy; great teams stacked with talent will implode if they can’t work together.”

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Former Wolf great Marc Aparicio with children Katelyn.

Former Wolf great Marc Aparicio with children Andrew and Katelyn.

The glory days, with the stache-sportin' Aparicio brothers

The glory days, with the stache-sportin’ Aparicio brothers front and center.

The ‘stache is comin’ back! Maybe.

Marc and Mitch Aparicio rocked the mustaches back in the day, when both were standout athletes at Coupeville High School.

Now, as he brings a decorated career in the United States Coast Guard to a close with a retirement ceremony in June, the clean-shaven Marc occasionally daydreams of bringing back the glory that once resided on his upper lip.

“I miss the ‘stache. Not every 15-year-old boy can look as good as I did with my ‘stache – but my son is getting there,” Aparicio said with a smile. “My senior year I even shaved my head, but left the ‘stache – brilliant! I never missed a dance…

“Now that I’m retired from the military, I’m thinking of putting the ‘stache back to work,” he added. “Maybe start a local brewery and grow a gorgeous handle bar ‘stache like they had in the old days – watch out ladies!”

He once told his mom “I want to see the world!” and 27 years later, he has lived that dream.

Now back in Seattle and the father of two (11-year-old Andrew and nine-year-old Katelyn), he’s becoming a more frequent visitor back to The Rock, and may one day soon come home for good.

For now, the 1988 CHS grad gets to hang out with his big brother more (“We enjoy golf together, an occasional one-on-one basketball game and tennis. I’d say we’re about even on wins…”), which is huge.

Mitch was a year ahead in school and set the standard Marc tried to reach.

“The best part of playing sports in Coupeville was having an older brother playing with me, and pushing me to be the best I could,” Marc said. “High school sports were the foundation of who I became in life; I look at my brother as the foreman that helped build that foundation.

“Even though he was tough on me, sometimes very tough – I always looked up to him.”

The duo ended up on the football field together, with Marc at slot back and receiver, often leading the charge down the field blocking for his older brother, who was the team’s star runner.

“He use to get mad at me when I was blocking down field during one of his runs when he would run right into my back,” Aparicio said with a laugh. “Even though he was mad, I learned to block better down field.”

When Mitch headed off to college, Marc picked up some of Coupeville’s rushing load, but eventually settled in as a blocker for running backs Aaron Hall and Brad Brown.

While he enjoyed his senior season, it wasn’t the same without his sibling and Marc spent many weekends up in Bellingham hanging out with Mitch (“When he would let me”).

The older brother often came back to town, as well, and his visits inspired Marc to play extra hard.

“I was nervous, so I would always try my best when he was around.”

The brothers always had each others back, which was very evident during a baseball game during Marc’s senior year.

Aparicio stole home and blew up the catcher on the play.

As he headed back to the dugout, the opposing third baseman tackled him in retribution, only to suddenly have Mitch explode from the stands to back up his brother.

“It was pretty cool to have a big brother growing up. I can tell you many stories about when we were living in Seattle where he did the same,” Marc said. “So, I guess it’s hard to explain sometimes, but most of my sports at Coupeville remind me of my brother.

“I never tried to be as good as him; just having him see me try was good enough.”

While he doesn’t remember any specific awards (“My football helmet did accumulate some Wolf paws, but honestly I can’t remember what they were for”) Marc had a very successful run at CHS.

He lettered three years in football and twice each in baseball, basketball and track, going to state five times.

“I was very fortunate to be in the middle of a three-year period with great high school athletes,” Aparicio said. “Mitch’s class had guys like Rick Alexander, Jay Roberts, Dave Ford and Steve Konek,  my class with Dan Nieder, Brad Brown, Chad Gale and the class below with Tony Ford, etc., we had a lot of talent.

Even more now, he appreciates the men who taught him the games, as well.

“We had a lot of great coaches — Ron Bagby, Cec Stuurmans and Brian O’Hara made the most impact to my life,” Aparicio said. “All great coaches in my eyes. Didn’t matter the sport, they would push us, teach us and care about us throughout the season.”

And while wins and losses mattered, the lessons learned turned out to have the biggest impact.

“Although I was competitive, I think what sports gave me mostly was a sense of teamwork, commitment, honor, integrity and responsibility,” Aparicio said. “I looked at sports as a way to contribute the best I could for the betterment of the entire team.

“My goal was to do my part, not necessarily to stand out. It didn’t matter much to me that I was the star, it just mattered that we all worked together as a team,” he added. “We won as a team and lost as team. I know that I didn’t come up with this alone, it was the coaches and teachers at Coupeville that taught me – I guess I was the guy that took their motivational speeches literally.

“I didn’t know it then, but those simple lessons I learned in high school stayed with me and benefited me throughout my career.”

Aparicio remembers his time in Coupeville fondly (“I absolutely loved going to school at CHS”) and it was about more than sports.

He played in the band, took part in numerous clubs and was a volunteer fire fighter, often getting called out of practice with teammates to go fight fires.

“I was given the opportunity to play every sport, and improve as an athlete. I also had the ability to do many other things while playing sports,” Aparicio said. “The small school really gave us a lot of opportunities other schools may not have.”

With strong fan support (“My mom and step dad were dedicated members of the booster club. Every game they were there, rain or shine, with their friends”), Aparicio had several games that remain with him decades later.

Playing against Chimacum on the gridiron, he led Coupeville in penalties (“Late hits, I believe”) but redeemed himself by intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown (“So I guess it evened out”).

As a senior, facing off with La Conner, he had “the run of my career,” taking a pitch 80 yards. However, he was 85 yards from the end zone when he started, going down on the five-yard line when his body gave out.

Having played both sides of the line all game, he was dehydrated and fainted, providing his coach, Ron Bagby, with “the scariest day of his coaching career.”

Moments like that, or when he was picked off third in a baseball state playoff game by a right-handed pitcher (“devastating”) helped keep him from developing a huge ego.

“I feel like I was more of a team player – I contributed and did my part, but really never stood out – and I’m good with that.”

While he jokes that he’ll always be referenced as “Mitch’s Brother,” he has no issues with that and enjoyed the ride.

“I’m proud to be his brother,” Aparicio said. “I hope they remember me as one of the athletes that went through Coupeville at a very impressive time – maybe I’m not one who won all the awards, or single handily took us to state, but one that was a contributor, a team player, an important part of the outcome.”

After leaving high school, Aparicio took the lessons learned and implemented them in his life as he pursued a career of excellence off of Whidbey.

“Learning to become a team player in an organized sport at a high school level is extremely important for all young athletes. Team sports teach us so many life lessons,” he said. “Sometimes young players do not realize the lessons they are learning while they are young, and do not quite understand the impact of learning them, or NOT taking advantage of learning them – unfortunately some great athletes in high school grow up without seeing the bigger picture.

“Fortunately for me, I had great coaches and a great mentor as a brother. Some values I learned playing sports were commitment, teamwork, dedication and integrity,” Aparicio added. “Having these personality traits already embedded in my head from high school sports made me better at what I became in the military.”

After stints in the Air National Guard (electrician) and Army National Guard (heavy equipment operator), he joined the US Coast Guard and was accepted into flight school.

He eventually became an aeronautical engineer, putting in six months of ice patrol and search and rescue flight duties around the Bering Sea.

From there the accomplishments are staggering and carried him around the world — chief engineer for the H-65 helicopter fleet, maintenance test pilot, project manager on two of the biggest USCG acquisition programs in history, member of a helicopter operational unit, senior flight instructor and much, much more.

While attending graduate school in California Aparicio was an Associate Professor of system engineering, defense acquisitions and logistics.

Mitch calls me “Professor” now as a nick name,” he said. “I think it’s pretty funny – because I would never have thought I would have enjoyed school so much.”

As he prepares to retire from the Coast Guard, Aparicio — who has put in 3,000+ flight hours on missions from the Arctic to Puerto Rico — is currently working as a consultant for Boeing.

“I’m very pleased of my career and of what I have been able to accomplish and extremely honored to have had the opportunity to serve my country,” he said. “However, it all started with building the foundation of who I am, before and while in high school.

“Coupeville, my friends, coaches and mentors and my amazing family prepared me well, but not without hard work.”

Words of wisdom from two mentors have stayed with him.

“Outside of sports, I would say Ozell Jackson had the biggest impact on my life,” Aparicio said. “In an area where your athletic ability would not shine, Mr. Jackson taught me to use my mind and to attempt things in life of which I was afraid – I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember something like “try things that are difficult so you can learn more about them.”

“Also my father (Jorge Aparicio) would say something similar. Don’t keep doing the easy things, try the things you don’t know anything about, so you can learn,” he added. “But he would also say “but don’t be a hero guy.”

“I took that as, don’t go crazy, and be careful. My coaches, teachers and parents taught me to enjoy learning and to continue improving myself – I guess that’s what I got the most out of high school.”

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