North Ridgeville

Former North Ridgeville Rangers football standout John McGraw is playing crucial roles for the Baldwin-Wallace football squad this season. He has helped the Yellow Jackets get off to a 7-2 overall record (6-2 Ohio Athletic Conference).

McGraw, a running back, has rushed the ball this season 96 times and has a 4.2-yards per carry average. He missed most of the 2008 campaign with an injury, but has decided to return next year as a fifth-year senior.

“I feel like my individual performance this year has been pretty good,” McGraw said. “The thing with our offense is that we don’t have just one running back, we have three, and I am best friends with each of them. If I’m having a bad game, I know I can count on those two guy to pick me up and get the job done.

“Us three running backs are by far the most unselfish players as well. In our game against Muskingum, me and Tim Milker (running back) were having a pretty good game. He scored on a 30-yard run and told me I was next. I was on the sideline, and my running back coach said I had to get in the endzone, and I told him I don’t care who scores on this team as long as we do score. I think that shows how unselfish we all are.”

The Yellow Jackets have been working all year to prepare themselves for the regular season. McGraw said they realize how much that work has paid off.

“Coming into the 2010 season, the guys in the locker room that suit up every day were the only ones that believed we would be where we’re at today,” McGraw said. “We had to overcome a lot from last year to this year, and I believe it all relates to our senior leadership this year.

“I feel like last year’s team played solely for personal statistics and not team goals. This year’s team had the highest number of players attending off-season workouts. From that point on I knew we had guys that were dedicated to this program and really wanted to restore order in Yellow Jacket football.”

The Yellow Jackets have turned things around a lot, considering their record last year. Baldwin-Wallace finished last season with an overall record of 3-7 and it’s clear that the Yellow Jackets’ hard work has paid off this season. Obviously, McGraw is a big part of this turn around.

“I came into camp this year weighing 217 pounds,” he said. “Since then I have lost a little weight, and because of that, gained a lot of my speed back which is allowing me to run for some decent yards. My vision has also improved from the beginning of the year to now.”

McGraw has the skills and leadership that the younger players look up to. His experience has definitely paid off for Baldwin-Wallace this season.

“This year is technically my senior year and there are a lot of younger guys that are looking up to me because of that,” he said. “I’m trying to be a leader to them by showing them my work ethic and giving it my all 100 percent of the time. I feel that if they see an upperclassmen working hard to better the team, that they will then give it their all as well.”

McGraw doesn’t feel like he is the only one setting an example for the younger players this season, however. He feels that it has been a total team effort, starting with all the seniors.

“The senior leadership to me is what is making this year so successful,” McGraw said. “All of the younger players see how much pride we have in what we’re doing and that causes them to work harder, which benefits the team. We came into this season just wanting to win. We have been down in games, up in games or tied in games this year, and whatever circumstance we’re in, we do whatever is necessary to come out with a win.”

The Yellow Jackets head to John Carroll on Saturday for their final game of the season. They will compete in the annual Battle for the Cuyahoga Bowl Gold Trophy.

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