Caleb Harper has played all of the other sports, and he even liked some of them.
But nothing compares to football for the McCutcheon junior, and that passion is evident in the way he plays middle linebacker.
“It really excites me just being out on the field,” Harper said. “I just feel like it’s home for me. I can do what I’m good at.”
Harper converted the promise of his sophomore year into a breakthrough junior season, and his play helped McCutcheon make a late-season run to the sectional final. He is the 2012 Journal & Courier Jeremy Doyle Big School Defensive Player of the Year, named for a former Mavericks player who lost his life in a 1998 car accident.
“Caleb has a toggle switch; there’s no dimmer switch,” McCutcheon coach Ken Frauhiger said. “When it’s on, it’s on. He’s a relentless player.
“His greatest attribute is the fact that he plays hard all the time. You might block him initially, but he’s going to find a way to get off and get to the football.”
Harper started at weakside linebacker as a sophomore, but McCutcheon’s coaching staff felt he needed to be in the middle this season so opponents could not run away from him. He responded with 132 tackles (one behind Class 5A All-State choice Matt Muncy for the team lead), six sacks, six pass breakups and a pair of forced fumbles.
Harper said he was inspired to take his work ethic up a notch by the previous senior class, especially former Mavericks defensive end Taylor Miller.
“I really thought I had to, in order for us to win games and be able to stop the offenses that are coming after us,” Harper said on his junior-year improvement.
“Sophomore year, I thought that was a learning year for me on varsity. I did my best to stay with all the seniors I was playing with. This year, I thought I need to take all the stuff I’ve learned and take it to another level and help the team out in a different way.”
After winning one regular-season game, the Mavericks won road games at Harrison and Noblesville to reach the sectional final. McCutcheon led Fishers 6-0 at halftime before the Tigers rallied to win.
The sectional run gave Harper and his teammates a confidence boost and left them hungry for next season.
“It felt good that we had success, but I wish we had more than that,” Harper said. “I knew we had the capability. We were just coming together as a team, playing as a team and playing hard.”