MOUNT VERNON — East Knox High School senior Steven Lilley has earned a special honor recently. A three-sport athlete for the Bulldogs, Lilley has been named to the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Academic All-Ohio teams. Lilley is one of 66 individual players statewide to earn the distinction, and the first known football player from East Knox to receive the honor.
“This is a big deal to me because I’ve worked all my life to get good grades and balance sports at the same time,” said Lilley. “I’ve tried to be the best in both things, so this means everything.”
Lilley sports a 3.981 grade point average, which means he has received no less than an A-minus.
“It is pretty tough,” Lilley said. “I have to stay on top of it, and check my grades online every week. I try to balance practice with my school work. … This comes natural because I’ve been doing it forever. I just try to get my assignments done as soon as possible, and get them turned in on time. Then I get time after school for practice and sometimes I work. If I do everything in school and don’t slack off, then I have time to do the other things.”
Playing three sports — football, basketball and track — means Lilley is busy year-round. With such a busy schedule, time management is something he had to learn very early on.
“Time is a big issue. Any time during the day when I have spare time, I try to get my work done then,” said Lilley. “I know that at night, I always have something to do whether it is practice, I go to the gym and lift or I have a game. I know I have something to do. Time management is all I think about really.”
As far as school is concerned, Lilley is proud to break out of the image of the “dumb jock.”
“When people look at me and see, they wouldn’t get a first impression that I get straight A’s,” said Lilley. “That’s why I’m so proud, because I can balance all these things.
“I like all of my subjects, but my science and math classes are probably my favorite,” added Lilley. “I like the hands-on stuff.”
Lilley still has a few goals to reach this season. In addition to being captain of the boys basketball team, Lilley is also in the running for class valedictorian. That honor will take some hard work during the final stretch to graduation.
“That has always been my goal,” said Lilley. “It is a very big thing. I always strive to be the best. … Going through elementary school, I didn’t really think about it. I didn’t care about grades, but as I got into junior high, I started hearing about the grading scale. I started getting A’s, and it caught on. Then I just wanted to keep getting A’s. It is a competition for me, a lot like sports. I just want to be the best.”
Lilley also plans on going to college. While his mind is not made up when it comes to major or college, he is certain he wants to give football a try at the next level.
“I am undecided, but I want to do something with science or math,” said Lilley.
“I’m trying to play college football,” Lilley added. “I’ve had a few schools look at me, and I am still in contact with a few schools.”
According to Lilley, his top choices are Denison University, Ohio Wesleyan University and Heidelberg College, in that order. He is willing to listen, however, to any offers that come his way.
In addition to the individual honors, the OHSFCA honored the top 40 teams from around the state. The top six were Massillon (3.819), Marion Pleasant (3.767), Archbold (3.764), Lakewood St. Edward (3.742), Pickerington Central (3.721) and Avon Lake (3.713).
Lilley joins three other known recipients of Academic All-Ohio honors at East Knox — brothers Darrin (2002) and Brent Meyer (2004) and Dustin Stainer (2006). All three previous All-Ohio honorees received the award for baseball.