In an era of specialists, Blayne Armstrong is pretty special.
Marshfield’s multi-sport star took his turn leading the Blue Jays through a year’s worth of athletic achievements, and this fall will take his talents to the quarterback position at Missouri State.
For his excellence in all seasons, Armstrong is the News-Leader’s Male Athlete of the Year.
Female Athlete of the Year: Angie Allen
“He’s just a great athlete. He can pick up a racket and beat anybody in badminton if he wanted to, then go pick up a basketball and win a 3-point shooting contest,” said Marshfield football coach Nick Codutti. “He’s just one of those guys that can do anything, and it’s not a big deal to him.”
The chance to compete has always been a big deal for Armstrong, who was a star in four sports during his senior year. While it’s football that will take his focus from here on out, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound standout was one of the area’s best basketball and baseball players, and also qualified for the Class 3 state golf tournament.
“Honestly, I kind of get bored doing just one thing. If I’m going to enjoy it, I’m going to do all the sports I can, and I’m going to compete the best I can in all of them,” Armstrong said. “I’ve been blessed with a pretty good gift, so why not use it and have fun?”
Armstrong said he was never pressured, nor did he want, to focus on one sport, as more and more high school athletes have chosen to do in recent years. The son of Marshfield athletic director Kevin Armstrong, and the grandson of former college basketball player and longtime high school coach Jerry Armstrong, Blayne has been around several sports his entire life.
“I’ve never thought about specializing. My parents have always encouraged me to play sports and never pushed me towards one,” Blayne Armstrong said. “And our coaches are great. I didn’t have any pressure to specialize or anything.
“My baseball coach wanted me to do both (baseball and golf) my senior year. I know our football coach works really well with the basketball coach. They all understand that I wanted to play as many sports as I could, and they were really great about letting me do that.”
Armstrong will become a specialist at Missouri State, focusing on football for coach Terry Allen.
Allen’s daughter Angie is the News-Leader’s Female Athlete of the Year and is going to the University of Kansas on a rowing scholarship.
“The great thing about Blayne and Angie is, it breaks that myth that kids need to specialize in high school,” Missouri State football coach Terry Allen said. “From our recruiting standpoint, we don’t want guys who just specialize in football. We want them to compete in every sport.
“Obviously he’s a good quarterback, but he’s an all-star basketball player, a great baseball player, a great golfer. And that’s what we tell guys — just go for it. Enjoy all the sports; enjoy the high school experience.”
Armstrong had plenty of experiences to enjoy as a senior, starting with football where he piled up more than 4,000 total yards and led the Blue Jays to four straight wins to end the regular season.
A strict pocket passer from the time he joined the varsity team as a freshman all the way through the end of his junior year, Armstrong added 30 pounds of muscle and dropped his 40-yard dash time to 4.7 seconds in the summer between his junior and senior years. That enabled him to become a running threat good enough to rush for almost 1,000 yards as a senior. Nearly every play in the Marshfield playbook last season gave Armstrong a run-pass option.
After starting the season 1-4, Marshfield finished 5-5 as Armstrong threw for 3,172 yards and 33 touchdowns.
“When you have him for four years, you kind of forget how automatic things are (for him), that aren’t for a lot of people,” Codutti said. “He was just so reliable. … We had passing concepts that were well beyond any high school concepts that we’d taught before, but the reason he led the state in passing this year was because he’s a great athlete, not because of coaching.”
Armstrong’s athleticism was put on the shelf in early December, when he tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee in a basketball game against Lebanon.
And Marshfield went into a tailspin after Armstrong went down. The Bluejays were 4-12 after a Jan. 29 loss as Armstrong watched from the sideline.
Then Armstrong came back. And Marshfield went 12-1 the rest of the way, with the only loss coming to St. Francis Borgia in Class 4 sectionals.
Included in the season-ending run was a 75-73 win over Hillcrest for the Class 4 District 10 championship in which Armstrong scored 34 points.
It was the first district title for Marshfield’s boys team in 18 years, and ranks as one of Armstrong’s favorite memories from his high school career.
“When he was hurt … we struggled, not only with wins and losses. We struggled with our identity,” Marshfield basketball coach Damon Seiger said. “(When he came back) we were significantly different. He led us in almost every single statistical category we had. He averaged around 16 points a game. He averaged around eight rebounds a game. He was our assists leader. Our steals leader. He did so many things for us.”
Then it was on to spring, where Armstrong doubled up by playing baseball and golf. He helped the baseball team to a 16-12 record as a .340-hitting infielder and pitcher whose fastball hit the mid-80s on the mound.
Marshfield was one of just two teams to beat Class 3 state champion Springfield Catholic, notching a 5-3 win May 10 that helped the Blue Jays split the Central Ozark Conference Small Division title with the Fightin’ Irish.
When he wasn’t playing baseball, Armstrong worked on his golf game on the weekends and did well enough in district and sectional play to advance to the Class 3 state tournament as an individual.
“I was pretty lucky to have two good coaches there that allowed me to miss practices,” Armstrong said. “The only time I really practiced for golf was on the weekends, and I had to miss a few baseball practices during the week for golf.”
Armstrong has, sort of, slowed down this summer, working at Marshfield Country Club while also playing summer baseball and counting down the days until Missouri State opens fall camp July 30.
Then, he’ll leave his legacy at Marshfield for others to remember.
Seiger recalled Marshfield’s first week of basketball practice, during which Armstrong was still in football season. The Blue Jays weren’t practicing well, and Seiger told one of his assistants that the team had a long way to go.
“He just goes, ‘Blayne’s not here yet.’ And he was right. That first day he was with us after they got done with football, it was night-and-day different. His play elevated everybody else’s play. I just stepped back and went, OK, we’re going to be fine,” Seiger said.
“He was the heart of us.”
Male athletes of the year
2003-04: Nick Smart, Marionville
2004-05: Jacob Highfill, Glendale
2005-06: Christian Overstreet, Nixa
2006-07: Tomas Brock, Mount Vernon
2007-08: Matt Jordan, Ozark
2008-09: Johnny Gray, Central
2009-10: Tee Helsel, Branson
2010-11: Conner Wilson, Strafford
2011-12: Dorial Green-Beckham, Hillcrest
2012-13: Cody Lindsay, Ozark
2013-14: Blayne Armstrong, Marshfield