GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — La Salle High School senior linebacker Tahj Landrum exemplifies the leadership the Lancers are looking for this summer.
"Whatever role we ask him to play — if it's picking up the water bottles, if it's cleaning up the field, if it's being good in the classroom — he does everything," La Salle coach Pat McLaughlin said Monday morning. "He's one of the top young men in terms of academics, socially, athletically I've ever been around."
Landrum, who had a 4.3 weighted grade point average this spring, moved from quarterback to linebacker last year. He's flourished on defense.
"It was nothing too crazy to transition to but it definitely was a good opportunity and now I feel it's a real good opportunity for the team," Landrum said.
Landrum, who is 6 feet 3 inches tall and 210 pounds, and his teammates are hungry for the opportunity this upcoming season. Landrum has scholarship offers or opportunities from several college programs including those from the Ivy League and the military academies.
"I think his potential football-wise — his ceiling is very high because he's only played linebacker for a year," McLaughlin said. "He just puts his head down and goes to work. He's not the most verbal leader but in terms of holding others accountable and leading by example he's up there with the best guys I've ever had."
The Lancers are looking toward Landrum and other seniors to have a significant impact this season.
"I felt like I improved as far as my leadership skills," Landrum said. "A couple years ago I probably wasn't the vocal guy but now I'm more vocal."
La Salle (7-5) was a Division II regional semifinalist last season after losing to eventual state champion Winton Woods. The Lancers have turned the page and open the season Aug. 19 at Colerain (5-6).
"We're just trying to be a little more disciplined overall as a football team," McLaughlin said. "We're stressing the minor details and our kids have bought into it. They're working hard. A lot of kids are showing up. They're holding each other accountable. I like the leadership especially on the seniors. So hopefully that carries over into July and August."
Several Lancers have stepped up this month to help lead the team this month along with Landrum including senior quarterback Mason Mattingly, senior running back Jaylen Grant, senior defensive lineman Emmaus Dosa, senior defensive back Timiko Jackson, junior defensive back Koy Beasley and senior defensive lineman/offensive lineman Peyton Abney.
The Lancers are hungry to prove critics wrong. La Salle wants another opportunity to return to Canton where it won the Division II state title in 2019.
"We all have a chip on our shoulder," Abney said. "Last year was supposed to be our year. We all kind of went in thinking, 'Oh this is our year to go to state.' This year we feel like we are doubted. Maybe they're like, 'Oh La Salle has fell off; they're off the map.' So we definitely have something to prove."