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HOLLADAY — It’s not the perfect spiral or a scintillating touchdown run, but Olympus junior Tommy Barrus knows when he’s thrown the perfect block.
“My whole arm went numb; I felt that one,” Barrus said, motioning up and down his arm. “It was a good one. That’s how you know you got him good.”
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound offensive lineman just didn’t know one of his blocks would be classified as such at football’s highest level.
Barrus’ block that sprung Ryan Reynard, the running back who took the direct snap for a 66-yard touchdown during the Titans’ 24-21 loss to Riverton, was honored this week as the NFL’s Way To Play award winner.
The weekly award honors a high school player who “positively impacted the game through proper technique (i.e. tackling, blocking, footwork, discipline, vision).” The award is selected by a panel that includes former Idaho State star and eight-year NFL running back Merril Hoge, Pro Football Hall of Famers Ronnie Lott and Orlando Pace, 15-year linebacker Willie McGinest, and veteran fullback Michael Robinson.
“I love how he leads with his hands,” the hosts read over footage of Barrus’ pancake block that was found on Hudl.com. “Like we always say, take his helmet out of the play. This big ol’ guard just pancakes the linebacker.
“I love to see offensive lineman pancake defenders.”
Tommy Barrus is this week’s #NFLWayToPlay High School Award winner!— NFL (@NFL) October 12, 2020
Watch the block that set @Olympus_High up for the TD and landed his school a $1,500 equipment grant!
Get in the running at https://t.co/UU1HcMCwBZ! #PlayFootballpic.twitter.com/BNsjWN2Lj6
The announcement was made Saturday on the NFL Network, and footage of Barrus’ block quickly went viral on social media Monday morning — leading to a strange round of affirmation and congratulations for the unassuming junior who doesn’t have a Twitter account.
“It’s interesting to see them finally give credit to the linemen,” Barrus said. “And out of any of the linemen on our team; the junior that didn’t play varsity last year wins it.
“Our center is a two-year starter, our tackle is a three-year starter. And the smallest and newest lineman gets the award.”
If Barrus seems unassuming, he also credits his older teammates for him fit into the line after only playing a handful of special-teams snaps a year ago, with one play on the Titan’s offensive line. But guys like starting guard Jaxson Fullmer and center Luke Marshall helped him feel comfortable as a self-described undersized blocker with the technique of a traditional fullback.
“On every play, he’d remind me to pull or cross block or log,” Barrus said of Fullmer. “It helped me a lot; I knew the plays, but it helped to have them reassured that I know what I’m doing.
“Everything just worked better.”
While honors are nice, the award was about more than just recognition, too. The Titans’ football program was awarded a $1,500 grant from the NFL, in partnership with USA Football and Hudl. And though Olympus will probably celebrate “the perfect block” with pizza, they’ll also use the funds to replace some much-needed tackling bags that haven’t been updated since Whitehead was first named head coach 10 years ago.
When Olympus coach Aaron Whitehead shared the news with his team, the Titans hooped and hollered, crowding around Barrus and offering their congrats. It hasn’t been an easy season for Olympus, which sits just 5-4 before Friday’s rivalry game with Skyline.
But seeing the recognition for a blue-collar play from the game’s highest level meant a lot.
“That work ethic is awesome,” Whitehead said. “So many kids grow up wanting to be the running back, the star quarterback, to be the ball carrier — and that’s great. But for kids to want to be offensive linemen, that’s great — and I think it’s neat to have that blue-collar mentality, and the mindset is special.
“We’ve had some special ball carriers and phenomenal runners here at Olympus,” Whitehead added. “We’ve had some come through here recently, who are also great kids. But if you have that blue-collar mindset, it’s special.”