The swiftest of the Tigers
TIGARD — Speed.
It can be a beautiful thing.
It can also be a fantastic weapon to have on the football field.
And, well, when it comes to track and field, speed is the name of the game.
Braden Lenzy is speedy. He's downright ultra-fast.
His speed shows up on the football field. On the track, his speed is an amazing thing to watch.
Lenzy, a 2018 Tigard High School graduate, has showed off his speed on the football field, and on the track, for the Tigers the past four years.
That speed has helped lead to victory after victory on the gridiron and school record after school record — with some state titles added in — on the track.
Lenzy's athletic career at Tigard High School ended with what easily could be called a spectacular senior year, as he earned multiple honors during football season, as he helped lead the Tigers to a share of the Three Rivers League championship and a berth in the semifinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs, and as he once again won a state title, as he helped the Tigard boys take second place in the team standings at the Class 6A state track and field championships.
"That all meant a lot to me," Lenzy said, talking about his senior year at Tigard. "It was my last year playing with my friends. I've known most of them since elementary school. The best thing for me was the friendships."
That shouldn't come as a surprise, because, at Tigard, Lenzy definitely seemed to be a team player.
"I've been blessed to coach a lot of different kids, and most of them fit into the team scheme," Tigard High School head football coach Craig Ruecker said. "And Braden definitely fit right in. He is a great team player. When you are gifted, like he is, it's easy to think that you're the only one that matters. But Braden wasn't like that at all. He was very much into doing what was best for the team. He understood."
That teamwork carried on to track season.
"Track is an individual sport, but it didn't feel that way at Tigard," Lenzy said. "I loved the relays, competing alongside other people."
"He's very athletic, that's for sure," Shane Kessler, Tigard head track coach and assistant football coach said of Lenzy. "And he also has a drive to excel. He's also a great kid with an attitude that he wanted to do whatever he could to help the team."
With that teamwork, and all that speed, came plenty of honors for Lenzy in his senior year. He was a first-team Class 6A All-State selection on both offense and defense during football season. During track season, he earned a state title for the fourth straight year.
Now, Lenzy has another honor, as he's been named the Times' Athlete of the Year from Tigard High School. The honor goes to the top senior-class athlete, as seen by the Times, at the school for the 2017-2018 school year.
"Just being with my teams has always been a lot of fun," Lenzy said.
While Lenzy may have had a spectacular senior season at Tigard, he made an impact with the Tiger teams right away — as a freshman.
Just a few games into his freshman year, he was brought up to the Tigard varsity, earning a starting spot in the defensive backfield. He became the first player to play all four years at the varsity level for Ruecker in his 41 years of coaching.
"All those years, he was the first. I've never had a freshman on the varsity football team before," Ruecker said. "In football, there's a lot of difference between a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old. But Braden stepped in and played at defensive back — and it wasn't like we were a bad team."
Not at all. In fact, Tigard, with freshman Braden Lenzy, wearing jersey No. 82 at the time, starting in the defensive backfield, made it all the way to the Class 6A state title game.
Lenzy helped make a key defensive play at then end of the Tigers' 17-14 state playoff semifinal win over West Salem.
"(Ruecker) said that I'd have that opportunity," Lenzy said. "I always knew that I'd be up there, but playing as a freshman — it was scary. It was a very humbling experience. But I had great teammates, and it was a lot of fun."
Meanwhile, during Lenzy's freshman track season, he teamed with then-seniors Tyler Rosette and Tysen Prunty and junior Tyler Rosette, to win the 4 x 400-meter relay at the Class 6A state championships.
"That was super cool," Lenzy said. "I knew that if we got Tyler (Rosette, who ran an amazing anchor leg) the baton in good shape, we'd win it."
While Lenzy shined on the gridiron ever since he was a freshman, he really seemed to take over last fall as a Tiger senior.
"In his first three years, he was a fast kid who played football," Ruecker said. "In his senior year, he grew into a football player."
Lenzy, who was listed at 6-foot-1, 177 pounds last fall, filled many roles for the Tigers. In addition to playing in the defensive backfield, and at receiver, Lenzy also was the team's quarterback in the Wildcat offense.
In addition to the expanded role, Lenzy also got to play football this past fall with his younger brother Max, then a Tigard sophomore. They played together in the defensive backfield, with Braden Lenzy having four interceptions on the season, and the younger Lenzy picking off five passes. They were also together in the Wildcat offense, with Braden at quarterback, and Max as the motion back.
"It was really cool to get to play with Max this year," Braden Lenzy said. "That was my favorite part of the season."
There were other favorite moments.
Such as the Tigers' thrilling 31-28 win over Lake Oswego in a Three Rivers League showdown played Sept. 14 at Tigard High School.
In that game, Lenzy caught a 5-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass from Nick Heinke with just 18 seconds left to play in the contest. Lenzy then intercepted a Lake Oswego pass on the final play of the game to wrap up the victory.
"That game, and the Jesuit game my freshman year (a 42-41 Tiger victory, in triple overtime, in a state playoff quarterfinal game) were my favorites," Lenzy said.
For the season, despite missing four games, Braden Lenzy rushed for 462 yards, and four touchdowns, on 48 carries. He also has a team-best 22 receptions for 440 yards and three touchdowns.
He shared Three Rivers League Offensive Player of the Year and Three Rivers League Defensive Player of the Year honors while helping the Tigers earn a share of the league crown while going 10-3 on the season.
"Just the friendships. Those were the best things," Lenzy said.
It was midway through the second quarter of the Tigard's home game with Sherwood on Oct. 13 when it happened. Lenzy, blocking on a play, went down to the Tigard High School turf in pain, holding his knee.
The Tiger fans in the crowd let up a collective gasp. Sherwood coaches on the other sideline, looking at the play on an I Pad, said it didn't look good.
It wasn't. Lenzy suffered a knee injury, with maybe the worse outcome expected.
"Obviously, it hurt," Lenzy said. "I couldn't walk. Everyone said it looked bad. Luckily, my parents kept me calm and collected."
But there was the pain — not just from the knee itself.
"I felt guilty," Lenzy said. "I felt like I let my team down."
With his team in mind, he battled to get back into action.
"It was hard," Lenzy said. "I had electroshock therapy at 6 a.m., three or four times a week. I also did physical therapy during practice. It took a lot of effort to get back. I didn't want to not play. I knew that I'd have more years to play football, but I wanted to come back for my teammates."
Lenzy ended up missing four weeks. The Tigers, to their credit, came together and won all four of those games, including playoff wins over Barlow and rival Tualatin.
Lenzy, providing the team an emotional lift, returned to action in a 24-21 state playoff quarterfinal win over West Linn.
The right track
Take a look at the Tigard High School track and field record book.
You'll see the same name over and over — Braden Lenzy.
Lenzy set the Tiger standard in the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes. He also ran for the relay teams that hold the Tigard school record in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400.
"Track was pretty cool," Lenzy said.
"He has the ability to be clutch in clutch moments," Kessler said.
That showed in the state championships. As a sophomore, Lenzy won his first individual state title, running to victory in the 400 in a time of 48.38 seconds.
"That felt cool," Lenzy said of his first individual title. "I ran my race, and it was a good experience."
As a junior, Lenzy took on a tremendous challenge, running the 100, 200 and the 400. At the Three Rivers League district meet, he won championships in all three of those sprints. At the Class 6A state meet, he repeated as the 400 champion, winning that event in 48.89. Lenzy also took second in the 200 and fourth in the 100.
"That was a challenge he really wanted to take," Kessler said. "This year, he came back ready to do whatever we needed him to do."
He wasn't planning on running the 4 x 100 relay this year, but that all changed on April 27, at the Nike/Jesuit Twilight relay, when Lenzy watched West Salem, the state favorite in the short relay, and a team that didn't mind talking about it, get disqualified.
"After that, Antonio (Angel) and I decided to run it," Lenzy said. "I really wanted to beat them."
In the 4 x 100 relay finals at the Class 6A state meet, Lenzy, running the anchor leg, passed a pair of runners ahead of him, including West Salem's Anthony Gould, giving the Tiger team of Angel, Lenzy, sophomore Josh Burns and senior Skylar Holloway the title with a winning time of 41.68. West Salem was second at 41.76.
"When I got the baton, there was not doubt in my mind that we were going to win," Lenzy said.
It was also special for Lenzy to win the title with Holloway, his good friend and fellow 400 runner.
"He had such a great year," Lenzy said. "We broke a bunch of school records."
Lenzy went on to take second in both the 400 and 200 at last year's state meet, and he also was part of the Tigard 4 x 400 relay team that placed second at state.
"For quite a while, I think he realized that he could be really good," Kessler said. "And he put in all the hard work to get there."
And, for Lenzy, all of the medals and state championships are nice, but that's not all he'll remember from his track and field days at Tigard.
"I'll remember the trip we took (to the Arcadia Invitational, held in Arcadia, Calif.,)," he said. "And being with the team. That was a lot of fun."
For Braden Lenzy, he knows that, whether it be football or track, he's going to have his own personal cheering section.
"I have great family support," he said. "When you have your parents supporting you, that really helps."
Lenzy gets his support from his parent, Melvin and Andrea Lenzy.
"For sure, they've been great," he said. "My mom is my best friend, and my dad has helped me through everything."
And, of course, there's younger brother Max, who will be a junior at Tigard High School this fall.
"I love him to death," Braden Lenzy said. "I'm super excited for his recruitment."
Irish eyes are smiling
Lenzy will continue his scholastic athletic career at the University of Notre Dame, located in South Bend, Ind. He's planning to both play football and run track for the Fighting Irish.
"I'm really looking forward to it," he said.
"I'm really anxious to see how he does there," Ruecker said.
Lenzy will be playing at receiver for the Notre Dame football team, which opens its season Sept. 1, when it hosts the University of Michigan.
"I'm going to get in there, learn the system, and do my best," Lenzy said.
And, while Lenzy is used to taking on challenges, he has another in his path in his goal to compete for both the Notre Dame football and track squads.
"He'll be motivated at Notre Dame," Kessler said. "It's a challenge to be a student-athlete in just one sport at that level, and he's doing two. I'm excited to see him do it. I think he's an athlete who could absolutely do both."
If nothing else, both Irish squads will be getting a team player — a team player who is really, really fast.