By TED RADICK
HAMLER — As far as accidental discoveries go, Patrick Henry’s football program found a pretty good one.
It was a couple of years ago, and then-sophomore T.J. Rhamy was simply throwing a football around with a teammate to kill some time.
The Patriots had just seen starter Jarrett Maas complete his eligibility, and there was no quarterback in the pipeline. Some of the PH coaching staff happened to see Rhamy tossing the pigskin, and eyes were opened.
“It dawned on us, we could make a quarterback out of him and he could be a tremendous dual threat for us,” Patrick Henry coach Bill Inselmann said.
Rhamy will lead the Patriots from his quarterback and nose tackle positions at 7 p.m. Saturday at Lima’s Spartan Stadium as the Patriots (10-3) play Marion Local (11-2) in a Division VII state semifinal.
Yes, quarterback and nose tackle. Rhamy was already a two-year starter on defense when the PH staff decided to make him a quarterback.
Small school QBs often find themselves playing defense, most often at defensive back. But a quarterback/nose tackle?
“He was a nose guard first, we never envisioned, at first, him being a quarterback,” Inselmann said.
Rhamy was up for the challenge. And no doubt about it, it was a challenge.
“It was a bit much at first,” Rhamy said. “We had some read-option plays, and in our passing game we’re reading high safeties, and I had never done any of that.”
Rhamy had been part of a running back rotation as a sophomore, but reading a defense was a new skill set.
“Playing running back, I’d never had to worry about any of that,” Rhamy said. “It was ‘block this guy’ or ‘run to that hole.’ During that summer before junior year I worked really hard, and now with a year, two years under my belt I feel pretty comfortable with it now.
“The hardest part was definitely the passing progressions, going from the middle safety to the outside cornerback, then reading the outside linebacker. You have to read cover 2, cover 3 or man-to-man. When defenses can switch it up, it can get confusing.”
As expected, both Rhamy and the Patriots struggled in the early going. Last year, Patrick Henry limped out of the gate at 0-3 to start the season.
“I felt like I couldn’t do anything right,” Rhamy said. “I had thrown some interceptions and made some really bad rookie mistakes, and I thought, wow, maybe I’m not fit for this. The coaches believed in me, my teammates stuck with me and stood behind me.
“My teammates pushed me in practice to get better every day, and when you have your best friends with you it really gives you a boost of confidence.”
Last year’s PH team got its first win in Week 4 against Delta, then won a big one against Archbold to really get the ball rolling.
“The Archbold game of my junior year, we were 1-3, and it was at that point I told myself that I needed to start making more plays for my team,” Rhamy said. “I needed to step up my game. It kind of clicked, and from there we just kind of rode it out.”
PH made the playoffs last year riding a seven-game winning streak to close the regular season.
This year, it’s been more of the same. Rhamy has run for 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns, and passed for 1,758 yards and 15 TDs against seven interceptions.
Defensively, Rhamy is still killing it. He has 78 tackles, second on the team, with five sacks and nine tackles for loss.
Inselmann did, in 2018, shift Rhamy to a position where he figured his quarterback would take less of a pounding.
“His junior year, last year, we moved him to free safety,” Inselmann said. “I was one of the biggest proponents of that, because I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to take that beating on the defensive interior and running the football.”
Rhamy wasn’t a fan of the position switch.
“Honestly, I felt more out of place in the secondary than I did at quarterback,” Rhamy said.
“We started out last year 0-3, and moved him back to nose guard and that was an integral reason why we turned our season around and won seven straight games to finish the season,” Inselmann said. “He has that mentality, that wrestler’s mentality.”
Rhamy placed sixth at 170 pounds in the Division III state wrestling tournament in 2018, and fourth at 160 pounds last year. Teammate Wil Morrow is also a two-time state placer, but the focus right now is on football.
“We’re going to take this as far as we can go,” Rhamy said. “We’re having a lot of fun right now.”