By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Football has become more than just the Friday Night Lights for Keegan Sell.
Of course, the games still create the most exhilarating moments for the Garfield senior, but it is everything that encompasses the sport that has shaped Sell’s personality, character and leadership.
The discipline of waking up early, weekend after weekend, at 8 a.m. for Saturday morning workouts.
The irreplaceable friendships built through trust, accountability, honesty and the joys of success and agony of defeats.
The perspective that as good as any one individual is on the football field — and Sell is as good as they come in Ohio — they can’t accomplish anything meaningful without 10 other willing teammates.
All are examples of pillars that any successful high school football program tries to emulate.
In Garrettsville, it is in full swing.
And players like Sell have not only thrived inside the culture of head coach Mike Moser and his staff, but they have not been complacent. Instead, they have pushed the G-Men to new places.
Sell is now 6-foot and 210 pounds, but entered the program closer to 160 pounds and earned varsity minutes little by little.
At first on special teams and then into a full-time role during one of the team’s most important games of the season: A playoff matchup against Cardinal Mooney.
“Keegan had slowly been working his way into things during his freshman year, but I remember that playoff game for sure,” Moser said. “We were trying to conserve (QB) Austin Lysiak on offense, and I remember Austin looking at me and saying, ‘Put Keegan in!’ We did, and we turned him loose on defense, and Keegan has not left the field since.”
As a sophomore, he set a single-season school record with 175 tackles — and also added five sacks, two interceptions, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and 22 tackles for a loss.
Sell’s junior year was equally dominating, and he was named the Northeast Inland District’s Division V Defensive Player of the Year after totaling 131 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and 26 tackles for a loss. All while taking on a leading role in the team’s offense, too, with 811 yards rushing in a backfield that shares carries as part of its relentless single-wing wave of runners.
In many ways, if there was a blueprint for a player to fit inside what Moser wants the G-Men to be, Sell would be it.
Tough as nails.
Team before self.
Hardest worker in the room.
He has speed, strength and is like a coach on the field.
The G-Men have been fortunate to watch a wave of talented players come through the program over the last 20 years, but Sell is simply different than the rest.
“Keegan is special and what I am most proud to talk about is that he is just as good off the field as he is on the field,” Moser said. “It feels so good to see that. On the field, he is everything you would want from a player. Tough, physical, accountable, coachable, communicates well.
“And there is something special to be said when your best player is also your hardest worker,” Moser added.
For Sell, who won the Division III wrestling state championship at 190 pounds last March, it comes down to simple math.
“I am just one of 11 players out on the field, and I have a job to do to make sure my team can do what they want to do. We all have a job to do, and we have to do it for each other,” Sell said. “It is a game of inches and there are plays that happen every game that are inches away from something else happening. Those details matter all the time for all of us.”
One of those details menacingly stares back at Sell and his teammates during the off-season.
Years ago, Moser placed a clock on the wall that countdown the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the season kicks off on Week 1.
“That clock on the wall drives us,” Sell said. “Over the last couple of years, we have developed a great accountability with each other. We push each other to get better 1 percent every day, and I am proud to say that this is the hardest-working group I have ever been around.”
It is working, too.
Including Sell’s freshman year, the G-Men had posted a 23-2 regular-season record entering the 2023 season.
It’s been an exhilarating ride to this point, but Sell and his teammates still have more of their story to write.
But first, it is Tuesday and Sell needs to lead his group toward getting 1 percent better today.