By John Snodgrass, Cincinnati Enquirer
Doug Ramsey knows the work it takes to play football at the highest level.
The Elder High School coach has helped send numerous former Panthers to the Division I collegiate level. He's even seen a handful of those former students advance to the National Football League.
"Toughness is one thing. They're all guys that are tough kids that love to play football, and they have great work ethics," Ramsey said of his former players who have played in the NFL. "I think that's the one thing that we can talk about a lot with our guys here is the work ethic. ... If you look and go through the guys with the jerseys (hanging up in Elder's weight room); if you look at Kyle Rudolph, he's one of the hardest workers we've ever had. Eric Wood was one of the hardest workers we ever had. Ricky Brown, you know, you just go down the list. All those guys were very talented people but they had that little extra, 'I'm going to out-work you and I'm tougher than you are.' I think that's what separates these guys."
Even with a history of producing NFL-caliber athletes, Ramsey is still a little amazed at the crop of offensive linemen he sees walking the halls of the West-Side school and the number of "tough guys" he has in that unit.
"It's crazy," he said with a laugh.
It's also, arguably, the best offensive line in the state of Ohio.
The left side of Elder's O-line is littered with DI talent. At guard is Luke Kandra, a 6-foot-5, 290-pounder who holds offers from programs like Boston College, Cincinnati, Indiana and Purdue. Next to him is Ohio State verbal commit, Jakob James, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound tackle. And on the end is Joe Royer, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound tight end who holds more than a dozen offers including invites from Arizona State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Michigan and West Virginia.
All three athletes are ranked among the top-35 players in the state by 247sports.com. James checks in as the No. 14 player in Ohio and a top-50 offensive tackle prospect in the nation while Royer ranks 23rd in Ohio's class of 2020 and a top-40 tight end nationally. Kandra is a top-50 guard nationally and is listed as the 33rd player in Ohio's 2020 cycle.
"We're just going about it every day," James said of the attention the program and specifically the line has been receiving over the past year. "It's definitely something special to play along with these guys. I like to say they're better than me in every aspect on the field. We're always trying to get each other better when we're in here in the weight room or out on the field doing drills. Just pushing each other."