Another Warhorse has announced his plans to head southwest after graduation.
Owen High’s leading rusher from a season ago, Kristian Michels, signed a letter of intent on March 23 to play football for the Brevard College Tornados.
Michels averaged 4.3 yards per carry for the Warhorses as a senior on his way to 500 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, his four sacks and seven quarterback hurries from the outside linebacker position were both the second highest on the team. He also notched 55 tackles and returned four kickoffs while performing other duties on special teams.
“I don’t think he ever came off the field for us,” Owen head coach Nathan Padgett said. “We put a lot on him. He earned our team award for most versatile player.”
Michels played sparingly during his junior season, appearing in seven games for the Warhorses and primarily on defense. His role on the team coming into the 2017-18 season changed dramatically when he was asked to shoulder a bigger load.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Michels responded by carrying the ball 117 times for Padgett’s team.
“I watched Kristian grow and develop as a football player over the course of last season,” the coach said. “I believe his potential is unlimited, and he’s going to be a young man who will contribute at Brevard for years to come.”
Michel’s teammate Kaleb Woods, who signed to play for Brevard College in February, played a big role in his friend's decision to play college football.
"I never thought I'd play football at the next level," said Michels after the signing. "This is a very special moment for me."
Michels was emotional following the end of last season because he thought his football career was over. Woods approached him about the possibility of continuing his career in Brevard.
"I thought back to when coach told us at one point in the season that anyone who thought about quitting football would regret it," Woods said. "I knew if Kristian's career ended at the high school level he'd regret it."
Michels thought about his longtime friend's advice, and he agreed.
"I had never played running back coming into this season," he said. "My coaches and teammates put a lot of trust in me going into the season, and the whole experience was really fun."
Prior to playing running back, Michels played all over the field in middle school and on junior varsity. His speed was a known asset when Warhorse coaches decided to try him out at the position. But how his body would handle the punishment that comes with carrying the ball play after play remained to be seen.
"He hadn't played that much before that, but he really stepped into that role," Padgett said. "It was impressive to watch."
There were some jitters for Michels coming into the season, he said.
"I was used to being the hunter and not the prey," he said of playing running back. "My brothers on the field didn't take it easy on me in practice, and that helped me get ready for the physicality of the position."
Michels is the third of seven seniors from last season's Warhorse roster to commit to playing college football. Owen fullback and middle linebacker Antonio McDowell signed to play for Carson-Newman University a week before Woods announced he was bound for Brevard.
It's a rewarding feeling as a coach to see a player continue his career at the next level, Padgett said.
"It really shows what hard work and determination can do," he said. "It's really nice this year too, because this is the most college signings we've had in class since I've been here."
Edward and Diana Michels were sitting next to their son Kristian when he signed with Brevard College.
"We're extremely proud," Diana said.
"It's really special too because it makes Kristian elite in the Michels family," Edward said. "He's the first one in the family to go to college."
Michels and Woods plan to be roommates when school begins next year.
"I can't wait," Michels said.