Pembroke Hill sophomore defensive end Declan O'Leary is the Hy-Vee 41 Five-Star Athlete of the Week

Posted at 5:01 AM, Oct 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-06 23:40:09-04

Pembroke Hill sophomore defensive end Declan O'Leary had one heck of a game in the Raiders' 13-12 win over University Academy Charter last Friday night.

Declan had 11 tackles; five of them were solo tackles and one was a tackle for loss. He also had a sack, a batted down pass and blocked an extra point. That came in the 4th quarter following a University Academy touchdown, which helped the Raiders seal the win.

O'Leary's performance earned him this week's Hy-Vee 41 Five-Star Athlete of the Week. Needless to say, he was shocked.

"You know, I'm a sophomore and there's all these great guys above me like (senior middle linebacker) Hank Graves and the (other) seniors who just do so well and excel every game. So, I was kind of surprised," Declan said.

Despite being an underclassman, he has become a huge asset to a team that is 5-2 this season and a defensive unit that averages only 9.7 points per game.

"One of the most special things about Declan is that we know, when the play comes his way, he plays with reckless abandon," Pembroke Hill defensive coordinator Scott Guthrie said. "That's why we put him in a certain position, on the field, that we think gives him the opportunity to do that most often.”

He also has the stamp of approval from head coach Sam Knopik.

"Games like Friday night really kind of show his potential and what he's capable of, as a young player, and still making big plays when we need them," Knopik said. "What's neat about (his Friday night performance) and if you really kind of analyze that stat line, is he's being used in different places on those. You know, a lot of those tackles came from a defensive end position. The sack came from an interior D-line position. The blocked kick comes from a linebacker type position.”

It's not just the performance on the field that seems to make Declan well-liked by his teammates and coaches, it's how he carries himself, off the field, when the lights aren't shining on him. They especially like the fact that he's coachable.

"I think one of the best things is that he's been able to take feedback as constructive criticism and not absorbing that as coach doesn't like me," says Guthrie. "(He says) what am I able to do to make the team better?

Declan is appreciative of his coaches for helping him to get better on the field, and grow as a person off the field.

"I've learned a lot. And, something (the coaches) really focused on, is your personality and what you do off the field," the 6-foot-3-inch, 195-pound sophomore said. "Week after week, I get better and better. And, it's great experience."

NOTE: The Hy-Vee 41 Five-Star Athlete of the Week segment is shown every Thursday night during the 10 p.m. sportscast for the entire school year.



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