COLUMBUS -- Every opponent gave Toledo Central Catholic senior running back Michael Warren its best shot and he gave it back to them with the type of performances that made him the 30th annual winner of the Ohio Associated Press Mr. Football award.
Warren had 2,740 yards on 306 carries for an 8.95 average with 45 touchdowns this season and the Fighting Irish went 13-1, including a loss to Trotwood-Madison in a Division III state semifinal.
As a sophomore he helped the Fighting Irish win the 2014 state title, and the school was runner-up last season. Toledo Central Catholic was 50-7 in his four years there.
"To wear that bull's eye instead of a number, every team has had the opportunity to stop him," Toledo Central Catholic coach Greg Dempsey said. "Every team that plays against us hits a little harder. They would want to make their own highlight reel against Michael Warren, and he still shows up every week to perform."
Dempsey marvels at the durability of the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Warren.
"He plays football with a determination that's very rare," he said. "I know a lot of kids play very hard, that's what makes the sport so great. But to see what he does when he's carrying the football is something I've never seen in my 17 years as a coach.
"A good chunk of his yards are after contact. He is the best high school running back I've seen since Chuck Webb in the 80s."
Webb, a standout at Toledo Macomber, is considered a legendary player in local high school football circles. He went on to be All-SEC at Tennessee in 1989 and played for the Green Bay Packers in 1991-92.
Warren is well-versed in Toledo football lore, which makes Mr. Football so rewarding for him.
"It's an honor to win Mr. Ohio and bring it back to the city of Toledo, knowing where I come from and having all those great runners do the same thing before me," he said. "To be on that list with all those great players would be special.
"It's been an amazing four years, being a kid and watching the players before me play and knowing that I wore that uniform is huge. It means a lot to me."
Mr. Football could just as well be a lifetime achievement award.
Warren's 7,619 rushing yards rank No. 5 all-time in Ohio, and his 105 TDs are tied for sixth best in state history. He had three 2,000-yard seasons for the Fighting Irish after securing the starting spot as a sophomore.
He also holds the school's single-game rushing record of 385 yards against Lima Senior on Oct. 28.
"Usually a kid with the type of stature that he's had, when they reach their senior year it's hard to match the hype," Dempsey said. "He's exceeded it."
Warren had just two carries for 5 yards as a freshman but ran for 2,246 as a sophomore. He didn't like the No. 40 given to him at first, and vowed to make a change heading into his junior year before he had a conversation with his mother.
"One day, she was talking about how Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert," he said. "She thought it was him watching over me and keeping me from getting hurt."
He hopes to take the number with him when he plays for the University of Toledo next season. There will be more pressure on Warren being the hometown kid, but Dempsey thinks Warren will be fine.
"I didn't how he was going to handle this year with all the expectations, and he kind of thrived on those expectations," he said.
Mr. Football is selected by a statewide panel of sports writers.
The other nominees were Lynn Bowden (Warren Harding), Alonzo Booth (Columbus St. Francis DeSales), Josh Myers (Miamisburg), Daniel Bangura (Canal Winchester Harvest Prep), RJ Jacobs (Sugarcreek Garaway) and Dustin Crum (Grafton Midview).