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Ironton’s Reid Carrico cuts the ball upfield in the first quarter of Saturday’s loss in the state title game.

Every year, more than a million high school football athletes play football, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Few make it to the college level — about 7%, per research from the NCAA. Even less make it to Division I.

Ironton senior Reid Carrico defied those odds when he signed with Ohio State last week.

On top of committing to play in Columbus over the next four years, Carrico also cemented a legacy for years to come with the Fighting Tigers.

Ironton has appeared in 10 state championships. The Fighting Tigers own the state’s longest historical winning streak with 58 victories in a row, and their home field, Tanks Memorial Stadium, once hosted an NFL team and has seen many incredible moments and players.

Carrico most certainly fits in that list of memorable talents.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker/running back had a career full of accolades and achievements while wearing the black and orange.

He was the first player in Southeast District history to be named the all-district offensive and defensive player of the year. He also was Ironton’s first player to make an Under Armour All-American game.

While at Ironton, he was a part of the highs and lows. The team went 4-6 and missed the playoffs his freshman year, but combined to go 24-3 his last two seasons with two state final trips.

Being able to revitalize a storied program in his time with the Fighting Tigers is something Carrico holds dearly.

“I just wanted to put Ironton back on top one way or another when I was here,” Carrico said. “Everything else came as a bonus, and I hope people know that.

“I grew up a diehard Ironton fan. It really meant the world to me, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I wish I could play at Ironton forever and I mean this.”

Prior to Carrico’s junior season, the college offers started to roll in. Marshall first offered Carrico in March 2019.

Then, an explosion of opportunities came in for Carrico — more than 30 from Power 5 programs per rivals.com, among them teams like Alabama, Clemson, Florida and LSU.

By September 2019, Carrico made his commitment to Ohio State. Last Wednesday on early signing day, he made it official.

“At the end of the day, I just felt like Ohio State was home and that I was supposed to be there,” Carrico said.

Carrico’s coach knows all about playing in the Big Ten. After a storied career at Portsmouth West, Trevon Pendleton went on to play at Michigan State where he was a part of several big wins with the Spartans, including the Rose Bowl in 2014.

Pendleton witnessed much change from Carrico from his sophomore year to now.

“I think the biggest area of growth came within his demeanor, the way he carried himself, the way he conducted himself every day, whether it be in the weight room, on the football field or in the classroom,” Pendleton said.

While Carrico excelled on the gridiron, he also achieved success in the classroom. His grade-point average hovered around 4.2 or higher throughout high school, and he plans to study engineering in college.

Pendleton said Carrico was never about himself. He always wanted to get others involved, and was one of the most complete competitors Pendleton has seen.

“I’ve been around a lot of good football players, and a lot of times you can go down the list and you always find kind of a weakness or a flaw in them,” Pendleton said. “Reid’s kind of a special kid, he doesn’t really have that.

“He’s a very hard worker and wants to be the best, but at the same time he’s also a very giving person and wants others to be the best.”

Carrico will be an early enrollee at Ohio State, heading to campus soon to begin his Buckeyes career.

Idolizing Carlos Hyde, Joey Bosa and AJ Hawk as a kid, Carrico will now have the chance to play on the same field they once did.

However, he isn’t too worried about what’s to come for him personally.

“I’m going to keep the same attitude and I just want team accolades before I ever want anything personal,” Carrico said. “I hope I win four Big Ten championships and a couple natties to go along with it.”

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