AVON LAKE – On a night when the Avon Lake football team was celebrated for its accomplishments this season, one of the smallest Shoremen stood the tallest.
Mike Haddad, a 5-foot-10, 205-pound senior, was named Lorain County`s Golden Helmet winner Sunday at the Irish Heritage Club. The award is presented annually by Coca-Cola to the top senior football player in the county and few could argue Haddad`s credentials on both sides of the ball.
But, despite all of accolades and all his impressive statistics, the thought of winning the Golden Helmet never entered his mind.
“You never really expect something like this,” said Haddad, the son of Jim and Tonya Haddad. “It`s not my first thought when I go out there to play. I didn`t know anything until I heard my name called. So I was surprised to hear it.”
He shouldn`t have been.
As a fullback, Haddad rushed 199 times for 1,612 yards (an 8.1 average), scored 27 touchdowns, had a 2-point conversion and caught 11 passes for another 136 yards. As a middle linebacker, he had 102 tackles and an interception.
Haddad was a big reason the Shoremen returned to the playoffs after a one year absence. Avon Lake won another Southwestern Conference title and made it to the Division II regional semifinal before losing to Ashland, 21-14. Avon Lake, ranked No. 2 in the final state poll, finished 11-1.
“I`m really honored to have this award,” said Haddad, who becomes the sixth Shoreman to win it. “But I wouldn`t have won it without the work of the guys up front. They do all the hard work and open up the holes for me to run through.
“The line is what makes our offense go. They were great for us all year, whether it was run blocking or pass protection. I`m just a beneficiary of their efforts.”
Although Haddad was surprised to hear his name called, Avon Lake coach Dacve Dlugosz never had a problem calling his name on the field. For that reason, he knew Haddad was a strong contender for the award.
“I wasn`t necessarily surprised,” Dlugosz said. “Mike`s an outstanding athlete and had a tremendous senior year. We appreciate the support Mike received in getting this honor. Usually our fullback is a glorified guard, but Mike is an exceptional athlete. His strength is really his versatility.
“He`s a powerful runner with speed, is a great blocker and also has great hands coming out of the backfield. He showed flashes of all this last season, so we knew what we had coming back.”
Haddad`s strong offensive numbers might cause some to ignore his work on the other side of the ball, which would be a big mistake, according to Dlugosz.
“The thing that gets overlooked about him is his defensive play,” Dlugosz said. He`s a great linebacker and reads the play really well. He`s got a tremendous burst of speed in breaking to the ball.
“Basically our linebackers are the quarterbacks of the defense. They call up our signals and make the adjustments based on what they see. Mike understands the concepts on both sides of the ball and makes sure that the defense is in the right formation.”
Haddad hasn`t decided on a college but he has heard from a wide range of schools, including Bowling Green and Mount Union.
“I want to play football at the next level,” said Haddad, who plans to major in diet and nutrition. “I`m not sure where it`s going to be but I`m going to bring the same strong work ethic and positive mental approach with me that I`ve been taught here.”
2007 Golden Helmet Award: Mike Haddad, Avon Lake
Special mention: Cody Schuster, Elyria Catholic
Honorable mention: Greg Shotwell, Elyria; Kyle Gregory, Avon; Billy Nagel, Amherst; Nick Rados, Brookside; Tim Taylor, Admiral King; Kull McClurg, Wellington; Ben Cline, Clearview; Shane Robinson, Keystone; Adam Koubek, Midview; Jack LaForce, Vermilion; Kris Robinson, Oberlin.