All-league honoree builds on family tradition

by: JEFF GOODMAN / PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Steven Sawyer (left), shown with his mother, Bonnie, signs a letter of intent Feb. 5 at Wilsonville High School. The senior will continue his football career at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois.If it had been up to Steven Sawyer, he would’ve started playing football before seventh grade.

But perhaps the wait made him appreciate the sport even more.

And after a successful career at Wilsonville High School, the senior will continue his life on the gridiron at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., about 55 miles south of Chicago.

“I’m very excited about pursuing my career after high school and getting a great education,” he said. “I’m excited for what my future has ahead of me.”

Sawyer will join a program that competes in the NAIA as a member of the Mid-States Football Association. The team went 3-8 this past season under coach Brian Fish, including 1-5 in conference play.

Sawyer said he expects to contribute as a slot receiver or tight end and possibly as an outside linebacker.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound athlete also received offers from Southern Oregon, Trinity International (Deerfield, Ill.), Missouri Baptist (Creve Coeur, Mo.) and Graceland (Lamoni, Iowa).

He said he chose Olivet Nazarene because of its religious roots and football program as well as because of its academic opportunities. He plans to study criminal justice.

Sawyer’s decision to play in the collegiate ranks builds on his family’s extended football tradition. His paternal grandfather, Robert Sawyer, played for the Buffalo Bills. His father, Kyle Sawyer, played at Missouri State. Several uncles played in college as well.

His older brother, Derik, is now on the roster at Malone University, a Division II school in Canton, Ohio. Derik, who was a first-team all-league honoree at Wilsonville, averaged 49 yards per kick on 36 kickoffs for the Pioneers this past season.

But Derik’s football success can be attributed in part to Steven, who took serious interest in the sport first.

“I always wanted to play football, but my dad wanted me to wait a little bit first,” the younger Sawyer said. “He felt that would be best. So I played soccer, but then I eventually got into football and I really enjoyed it. ... I can’t live without it.”

In his career with the Wildcats, Sawyer caught 12 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown as a tight end. He also logged 24 tackles, two sacks and two fumble recoveries as a defensive end and linebacker.

Sawyer helped the program reach the Class 5A state playoffs for the fifth year in a row this past season and garnered all-league honorable mention.

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