Freedom High football player Isaac Tanner talked about the first time he stepped up as a leader. It was halftime in a basketball game, trailing by double-digits and Tanner felt compelled to step up and take control. He scored 15 second-half points and helped his team earn the win.
That was when he was eight years old. Tanner has readily stepped up to the challenge again and again and the now 17-year-old will be called upon again as the captain and starting middle linebacker for the Patriots.
No problem for the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Tanner.
"I've been a captain since my sophomore year and I've never thought you have to be a senior to be a leader," Tanner said. "It's all about the type of presence you bring and what type of leadership you have and I've gladly accepted that role."
However, the task for Tanner and first-year Patriots coach Todd Donohoe is far more than just stepping in and filling a role – it's about building a tradition at a school that has yet to find one. Donohoe enters as the seventh head coach in 11 seasons and the third coach Tanner and his fellow seniors have known.
"The Culture at Freedom hasn't been built yet," Tanner said. "We are trying to establish that whole school unity of being behind the team, the whole community to behind us. With so many coaches we just haven't had any of that going for the team."
For Donohoe, the former head coach at Strawberry Crest and an assistant at Armwood, Tanner is the kind of player who makes trying to build a tradition at a school a little bit easier.
"He's a leader in and out," Donohoe said. "He's a program player who never misses a practice, is always on time and doing the right thing on top of being big as a house and one of the top linebackers in the area."
Tanner, who has offers from Elon, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee State, North Dakota, North Dakota State, Ohio and Western Kentucky, will anchor what should be the Patriots strength this season with a solid defense.
"Our defense is going to be pretty darn good," Donohoe said. "People don't know about these guys and that is a good thing because nobody outside of us expects anything, but these guys are going to surprise some people."