COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The biggest play of Mentor’s season was in good hands.
Coach Steve Trivisonno knew by looking into quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s eyes that a two-point conversion in the regional finals against mighty Cleveland St. Ignatius — in the third overtime, no less — was going to be successful.
“You looked at him and he walked out there on the field and made the play,” Trivisonno said. “It was just like he expected to do it.”
Such self-assurance is a big reason why Trubisky was announced Wednesday night as the 26th winner of the prestigious Associated Press Mr. Football award, given annually to the best high school player in Ohio.
Trubisky, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior, and his team fell a game short of this week’s big-school state championship game. That’s one of the few disappointments in an otherwise glittering career.
“It’s been awesome. The only thing that would have been better is if we were able to bring a state championship home,” Trubisky said this week as he kept both hands on the wheel while driving home from school. “You can only ask for so much and whatever happens, happens. I’m blessed for the career I had at Mentor.”
Also an outstanding student, Trubisky passed for more than 4,000 yards and 42 touchdowns and ran for 835 yards and 18 TDs as a senior. He completed 264 of 393 passes (.672) with 12 interceptions, for a stratospheric passer-rating of better than 180.00. He scored 108 points — ironically, the same total as his two favorite 1,000-yard receivers, Brandon Fritts and Conner Krizancic, behind running back Nick Delisa’s 126 points.
Mentor, by the way, is sort of becoming the home of AP award winners.
Fritts is the brother of the reigning Mr. Basketball, Justin Fritts, now at Wheeling Jesuit. On top of that, Trubisky is the second Cardinals quarterback to take the top honor in the state, following in the footsteps of Bart Tanski in 2007.
It seems everyone always knew Trubisky, who threw for more than 9,000 yards in his career, would be a prep star.
He was the ball boy at Mentor years ago, and Trivisonno watched his career as he progressed through youth and middle-school programs.
“He’s a complete kid. When you look at the football playing, he has a great arm and he is very good with his feet,” Trivisonno said. “He has a great head for the game. He’s just a complete football player. But then you get into it and he’s an outstanding person. He’s a great (3.7 GPA) student. He’s just the complete package.”
He proved that coming down the stretch for the Cardinals.
Trubisky threw for 476 yards and 4 touchdowns and ran for 102 yards and 2 TDs in a come-from-behind, 63-56 win in the playoffs against the state’s No. 1-ranked team, Lakewood St. Edward.
Then came his conversion pass against St. Ignatius.
“We shifted to keep them off balance and then I rolled out left,” Trubisky said, recalling the moment. “One of our receivers ran a pivot-comeback route and he made a great move on the corner. I popped it to him just like in practice every day. My line has done a great job for me all year and we just executed and he caught the ball and we won. It was awesome.”
Trubisky has committed to play at North Carolina next season and is excited about the prospect of stepping in for the second year of coach Larry Fedora’s reclamation project.
Asked to pinpoint what he does best on a field, Trubisky instead points out something he does off it — prepare.
“I like to say I’m a student of the game,” he said. “I’m going to know the defense I’m going up against very well. I watch a lot of film. I prepare very well. But when plays break down, I’m able to make plays with my legs and my arm and just fit the ball in there because I can throw it pretty well, too.”
Meanwhile, Trivisonno, Mentor’s head coach the past 16 years, will have to move on without his star quarterback.
It won’t be easy.
“In high school, you don’t replace kids like that. You’ve just got to go out and develop the next young man,” he said. “We’ve got good ones coming. But I might never coach another Mitch Trubisky in my career. He’s just special.”
Trubisky was selected in balloting by a statewide panel of sports writers and broadcasters.
Others considered for the honor included Willoughby South running back Kareem Hunt, Warren Howland running back De’Veon Smith, Bradford running back James Canan, Toledo Whitmer quarterback Nick Holley, Columbus Hartley running back Ja’Wuan Woodley, Dayton Christian running back Heath Harding, New Philadelphia running back Jamal Johnson, The Plains Athens quarterback Joe Burrow, Pickerington North running back Godwin Igewebuike and Kettering Alter running back Malik Zaire.
Past recipients of the AP Mr. Football include Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, along with current or former NFL players Robert Smith, Delone Carter, Andy Katzenmoyer, Curtis Enis, Marc Edwards and Bobby Hoying.