MENTOR, Ohio (WJW) – While some athletes and coaches take a “win at all costs ” approach to sports, a local high school football player is being saluted for a display of empathy not often seen on the gridiron.
The demonstration of sportsmanship came after a hard-fought game between Mentor High School and Lake County neighbor, Riverside.
The game came down to the final play, and if the Riverside kicker made a short field goal, the Beavers would pull off a big upset. But the kick sailed wide right, giving Mentor a 7 to 6 victory. It touched off a raucous celebration by the Cardinals and their fans. But almost immediately, the thoughts of Mentor senior linebacker Kadyn Burkholder turned to Riverside players, who had given their all, only to suffer a heartbreaking loss.
The 17-year-old Burkholder told FOX 8, “I felt like the game could have went 50-50, you know Riverside, the way they played, they deserved it, I mean also the way we really came back, we deserved it, and then I had a flashback of the previous weekend, I felt the same exact way, [St. Ignatius] scored a touchdown, they’re all celebrating in the end zone and I had my head down.”
Burkholder had a brief conversation with a couple of the Riverside players struggling with the loss.
“Complimenting them, it was a phenomenal game, and it was there to the end,” he said.
Away from the cameras, the 17-year-old Burkholder caught up with Riverside kicker Sean Kerwood, who was blaming himself for the loss.
“I just told him that it was a very good game, and he’s not going to make it every single time but at least he has a learning experience, he has something to work off of,” said Burkholder.
During the game, Kadyn Burkholder had been a thorn in the side of the Riverside team, collecting eight tackles and two sacks, while being named defensive player of the game.
He says his view of competition and sportsmanship was shaped by his father.
“He had a lot of impact growing up, to always treating everybody the same, the same respect and always you know respect the other team, no matter who there are,” he said.
Mentor Football Coach Matt Gray says what struck him about Kadyn’s quiet demonstration of sportsmanship after the game was that it was authentic and from the heart.
“You don’t always see young people handle those moments very well and handle it with class and dignity and high character values, which you absolutely saw with Kadyn on Friday night,” said Coach Gray.
While people around the sporting world and on social media are paying tribute to Kadyn Burkholder, his hope is that his display of grace will influence other players.
“I feel like it makes the game a whole lot better, a lot less negative and people can enjoy the experience way more,” he said.