Harlan on recruiting: Steel Valley senior Strothers a quick learner at DB

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Thursday, August 24, 2017 | 12:00 AM


Steel Valley senior Amonte Strothers can remember the first time he absorbed a big hit on the football field.

“One of my teammates hit me pretty hard,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh, man!' After that I kind of didn't want to hit anymore, but you've got to be physical to play this sport.”

That initial hit? Surprisingly, it came just last summer.

Strothers had never played football until Ironmen coach Rod Steele visited his home, met with him and his family, and persuaded him to join the team as a junior.

The 6-foot-2, 178-pound cornerback agreed, became a starter before the season opener, earned first-team all-conference honors in Class 2A, celebrated a state title in December and received a scholarship offer from Syracuse by January. All were accomplished by an athlete who'd considered himself a basketball player first and never gave football much thought.

“I'm still kind of surprised,” said Strothers, who now initiates contact. “I sit back and realize, man, this is something crazy.”

He's up to eight scholarship offers for football. Among them is a Big Ten offer from Purdue, which has him excited to plan a campus visit to West Lafayette, Ind. He's already seen Miami of Ohio and Toledo. His other offers are from Kent State, Duquense, Delaware and Georgetown.

“I would have never thought in a million years that I would be a college football player,” Strothers said. “It never even crossed my mind.”

But Steele recognized Strothers was an exceptional athlete, an outstanding student and was optimistic his skill set would transfer seamlessly to football. Strothers' basketball background shows in his ability to leap and high-point passes.

“He's got a vertical that's unbelievable,” said Steele, who remembered how Strothers' athleticism showed almost immediately on the football field.

“When he was going through the drills, you would have thought he's played this game since he was 8 or 9 years old because he was just a natural,” Steele added.

Still, Strothers was a junior who'd never absorbed any real contact. What would happen when they put on the pads?

“We were optimistic, but you're talking about a kid who never played football,” Steele said. “Football is a physical sport. Sometimes it's not made for everybody. But once we started hitting, he started putting his face in there and was physical, too.”

The newcomer earned a starting spot in a secondary that starred safety Paris Ford, now a freshman at Pitt. Combined, they boosted a defense that saw Steel Valley make history as the state's first team to win every game under the running clock of the mercy rule. Strothers credits Ford for helping him learn.

“I've come from someone who had no knowledge (of playing football) to someone who's now out there teaching some of the younger guys,” he said. “I told them, I've only been here one year. And they say, no way you've been here one year.”

As Strothers finishes his second football camp, he thinks back to this time last year. He was finishing his first, and “I'd never, ever been that sore,” he said with a laugh.

“I thought: ‘Oh, man, this is a lot.' But the work paid off.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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