Former Ohio State and NFL linebacker Chris Spielman stood in front of the student body Thursday at Fisher Catholic and talked about his passion for extracurricular activities and high school sports.
It’s a passion shared by his audience, as evident by the fact Fisher Catholic, one of the smallest schools in Ohio, pulled the most votes to win a contest and earn the right to have Spielman in attendance to present a reward.
Fisher Catholic was awarded a $10,000 grant Thursday for being one of two schools to win the inaugural Chris Spielman High School Team Challenge. Spielman partnered with McDonald’s for the contest, an online voting competition between all central Ohio high schools with the grant going to the school with the most votes.
“I saw the importance from a very young age how sports gives kids opportunities the might not have,” said Spielman, whose father was a high school football coach. “I’ve always had a rule in my house that my kids have to be a part of something with the school, whether it’s drama club or choir or band or football, whatever it is. They have to participate because it’s their school, and that’s what they represent.”
Spielman, McDonald’s operators from central Ohio and an OHSAA representative gathered in the Fisher Catholic gym to present the check to the school. McDonald’s and Spielman designed the contest as a way to give back to schools as a way offset the rising cost of high school athletics.
The contest was a three-round voting system. The schools were split into the same dthey are in for football (I to VI), and the three schools with the most votes in each division advanced to the second round.
From there, voting took place again to result in one winner from each division. For the final round, the winners from Divisions I-III were in one group and the Division IV-VI winners were in another group. The Irish beat Liberty Union and Bloom-Carroll in the final. Reynoldsburg was the other winner.
“This shows how much our community can accomplish when everyone comes together,” Fisher Catholic athletic director Tony Hurps said. “We can’t be divided because we are such a small school. When our community rallies behind us, it’s huge, and this is a great example of that.”
The Irish were the smallest school of the finalists, but won the vote behind an inspired community of parents and students.
“We’re a tight community,” said senior Noah Kerns, whose mother — Angie — is the president of the Fisher Catholic Athletic Association and spearheaded the online campaign. “It’s really, really, close. So everyone talks, and it kind of spread. It spread to family and friends, and it went from there.”
Hurps said he does not know how the school will spend the money, and he wants to make sure it can affect the largest number of students possible. Hurps found out last week the school won, and he tried to keep it a secret in planning Thursday’s pep rally. But, some students started to catch on.
Spielman, a former Buckeye and NFL player and current ESPN college football analyst, said he hopes the contest grows and becomes statewide.
Presenters included Paul and Matt Harper, operators of Lancaster-area McDonald’s restaurants. Paul Harper has been in Lancaster since 1974 and said he was happy to be part of the contest.
“We’ve been doing this for a long, long time,” Paul Harper said. “Those (the kids) are our customers right there. So we wanted to do something for them.”