Elkhart Central senior Mark Brownlee has just completed an amazing career.
Having split his four years between Elkhart Memorial and Elkhart Central, Brownlee finished with 5,368 yards rushing and 59 touchdowns. This fall alone, the Ball State commit gained 2,073 yards and scored 32 touchdowns, despite missing two games.
So the question has to be asked ... if there were a Mount Rushmore of Elkhart County high school football players, would Brownlee's face be chiseled in?
I say yes.
What about you?
The football talent that has come out of Elkhart County is truly staggering.
Scott Homan (Elkhart Central) would win a pair of national titles at Alabama; Ernie Jones (Elkhart Memorial) would play for two teams and score 20 career touchdowns in the NFL; Marcus Carpenter (Jimtown) would play at Wisconsin after rushing for 3,652 yards and scoring 71 touchdowns in his high school career; Nate Andrews (NorthWood) set school records for yards and touchdowns both in a game and career for the Panthers; Ross Hales (Memorial) caught 51 passes at Indiana University after playing quarterback for the Crimson Chargers.
Justin Love (Northridge) set school records for receiving yards, receptions, interceptions and scoring and was a three-time all-conference selection; brothers Rod (Central) and Garvin Roberson (Elkhart High) were each incredible athletes and football players; Rickey McKenzie (Concord) led the Minutemen to the 1998 state title game and holds career (4,276) and single-season records (1,757) for rushing yards, rushing attempts (683, 289), rushing touchdowns (50, 26), points scored (372, 192) and total yards (4,819, 2,028).
There are so many others too: Brothers Ron and Don Lewallen (Goshen), Terrence Larkin (Central), Mike Meade (Concord), Keith Kinder (Jimtown), Kent Yoder (Goshen), Franco House (Concord), Wes Dodson (NorthWood), Brian Smith (Jimtown), Bob Cira (Concord) and Steve Swihart (Goshen).
But to me, the final seven players up for our Mount Rushmore comes down to Brownlee, Bronson Yoder of NorthWood, David Schnell of Elkhart Central, Rick Mirer of Goshen, Shafer Suggs of Elkhart High, NorthWood's Trevor Andrews and Jayme Mathews of Fairfield.
Too bad they didn't put seven presidents on the original Mount Rushmore, then my problem would be solved.
Come on, no Franklin Pierce?
Two players jump out immediately and likely will have their likenesses in granite forever ... Schnell and Mirer.
The late David Schnell was the No. 1-rated quarterback in the nation in 1985 after throwing 22 touchdown passes as a senior. He finished his high school career with 3,858 passing yards and 41 touchdowns, while posting an 18-2 mark – with both losses coming to Penn.
He would go on to start for three years at Indiana University and is the only IU quarterback to beat both Ohio State and Michigan in the same year. He was the MVP of the 1988 Liberty Bowl and played in three bowl games for the Hoosiers. His career-high passing game at Indiana was 378 yards against South Carolina in '88.
Mirer was also named the nation's best quarterback after leading an unbeaten Goshen team to the 1988 state championship. Mirer threw for 3,973 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior, which were both Indiana records at the time.
Mirer became a three-year starter at the University of Notre Dame and helped the Irish win a pair of bowl games. He was the No. 2 pick in the 1993 NFL draft and had an outstanding rookie season in Seattle. He would later play for six other NFL teams before retiring in 2004.
To me, Yoder is also a no-brainer, as the 2019 NorthWood grad was a three-time All-Area selection by The Truth and was a finalist for the state's Mr. Football Award last fall after leading the Panthers to an 11-1 record, with the loss coming in the sectional finals against Angola. He was also a starter for the 2016 NorthWood team that reached the Class 4A state championship game.
Moving to quarterback last season, Yoder finished with 2,310 yards rushing, 427 yards passing, intercepted seven passes, returned kicks and punts and totaled 33 touchdowns. He also set a NorthWood record by rushing for 339 yards in a sectional win over East Noble.
So, that's three, leaving us with one more open spot.
Mathews was a beast at Fairfield, earning the team MVP award and All-Northeast Corner Conference honors four times. He's the school-record holder for rushing yards (5,308) and points (452). He was a first-team All-State back and led the county in scoring twice in the late 90's.
If we were ranking the top ATHLETES to come out of Elkhart, Suggs would likely be very near the top of the list. He was a first-team All-State selection in 1970 with the Blazers and later went on to a great career at Ball State and in the NFL. Suggs had eight interceptions in a season at Ball State and was a second-round pick of the New York Jets after earning the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Trevor Andrews, now an assistant coach at Western Michigan, was a dual-threat quarterback for NorthWood, leading the Panthers to the 1993 Class 3A state title game and a 13-1 record. He was a two-time All-NLC selection and the area and conference scoring leader in '93. He was also a quarterback in the North-South All-Star game and a Mr. Football finalist. He would play college football at the University of Dayton.
But to me, the final face belongs to Brownlee, and no, I'm not acting on what's trending recently. His career – let alone his senior season – were just that good.
Brownlee led the Blue Blazers to the Class 5A sectional title game and a 9-2 record last season. His career total may have been pushing 6,000 yards had it not been for an ankle injury that cost him three games as a junior and of course missing two games in 2019.
While Central's loss to Mishawaka last Friday was disappointing, we should all take a moment to marvel at Brownlee's year.
One that – to me – helped put him on Elkhart County's Mount Rushmore.
Ken Fox is the Sports Editor of the Elkhart Truth. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KenFoxTruth on Twitter