By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — They’re like brothers – the best of friends who have (all but one year) played football together since the third grade. So it was no surprise when Covington seniors Tyler Freeman and Ethan Herron chose to announce their collegiate commitments on the same night.
Which was the case Wednesday evening in the commons at Covington High School, where Freeman committed to Heidelberg University and Herron committed to Urbana University. Ironically, both will major in Criminal Justice and play football at their respective colleges.
“They are two peas in a pod,” said Covington coach Ty Cates of Freeman and Herron. “They are like brothers. They hold each other to a higher standard and were never afraid to hold each other accountable. At times they got in each other’s face and at other times they were the first to pat each other on the back. They’ve always been like brothers.”
Tyler Freeman, who is the son of Jim Freeman and Jennie Feazel, was a three-year starter and letter winner for the Buccs thanks to his ability to play multiple positions – quarterback, halfback and slot back on offense; corner and safety on defense; and returning punts and kicks on special teams.
“Ty is a very versatile athlete,” said Cates. “When you are as athletic as him you do everything you can to get the ball in his hands or put him in a position to help your defense. He’s so unselfish and will do whatever is best for the team. He proved that when we decided to move him from quarterback to receiver as a senior. Most kids would have been selfish and not wanted to do that, but we needed him at receiver for his blocking and to get the ball in his hands in space and he accepted that role without question.”
As a senior Freeman earned first-team honors in the Cross County Conference and the Southwest District and was also chosen All-Ohio Honorable Mention.
And when Freeman visited Heidelberg, who is coached by Scott Donaldson, he spent time with former Buccaneer teammate Brandon Magee, who is a sophomore football player at Heidelberg. After his visit, Freeman knew where he wanted to go.
“The school is perfect for the program (Criminal Justice) I will be going into,” Freeman said. “I was able to stay with Brandon (Magee) on my visit and he loves it up there. Plus, the coaches think I have the potential to earn playing time pretty early in my career.”
Ethan Herron, who is the son of Jayson and Angie Herron, also had a stellar football career at Covington as a four-year letter winner where he excelled as a running back on offense, a safety on defense and teamed with Freeman as a return specialist. He was also the Buccs’ place kicker as a senior.
And Herron earned first-team recognition in the Cross County Conference and the Southwest District as a senior and was named All-Ohio Honorable Mention. He was also named to the CCC All-Academic team.
“Ethan has rare vision as a back,” Cates said. “He has very good vision, runs hard and has nice size. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and is very shifty in space. He’s a football kid – loves the game and understands the game very well. His love for the game will help him in college.”
Urbana, who is coached by former Piqua High School standout Tyler Haines, was high on Herron’s list throughout the recruiting process due to its size and location.
“The atmosphere is so much like Covington,” he said. “It’s close to home, so my family and friends will be able to see me play.”
Freeman and Herron join a long list of Buccaneers who have chosen to take their football talents to the collegiate level.
And coach Cates feels they have a responsibility to represent not only their new program, but their high school alma mater.
“It’s obvious, being at a small school, not too many kids get recruited like the kids from bigger schools – so the opportunities aren’t there as often,” said Cates. “So when a kid from Covington gets the opportunity like Ty and Ethan have, they have to take advantage of it so schools will continue looking at other kids from Covington.”
Which requires hard work and mental toughness.
“Both of these kids – like other small school kids who go from high school to college – they will be starting at the bottom and have to work their way up,” Cates continued. “There will be times when things don’t go their way, but having that mentality of proving people wrong and playing with a chip on your shoulder is what will get them on the field.”
And both Freeman and Herron feel Covington has given them the foundation to do just that.
“My coaches have prepared me for college by stressing that hard work and mental toughness will take you far in life,” Herron said. “That’s what you need to be successful.”
Freeman feels the belief his high school coaches had in him gives him the confidence he needs at the next level.
“The positive reinforcement from Coach Cates and Coach (Dave) Miller – just telling me that I’m good enough to play at the next level – that’s what made a difference for me,” he said. “Also, Jason Sutherland has helped me and a few other guys to get ready for college with some extra training.”
Now that their commitments are final, Freeman and Herron will continue to prepare for college by training hard over the summer. Then, Herron will head to Urbana and Freeman will go to Heidelberg.
But you can bet they’ll stay in touch once it’s time to go their separate ways.
After all, they are like brothers.