Hundreds of student-athletes have walked the hallways of Anthony Wayne High School through the years.
But probably none has exemplified the definition of student-athlete more perfectly than Brandon Cramer.
When it comes to students, none in AW's current senior class ranks higher or owns a grade-point average better than Cramer's gaudy 4.52. As far as performance on the field, no wide receiver among the Northern Lakes League schools produced better receiving statistics in 2002.
The 6-1, 185-pounder led the league with 702 receiving yards and finished fourth in the league in scoring with 13 touchdowns in his first full season playing wide receiver. He enters his senior season as the top-ranked returning receiver in the NLL.
“He's probably the best [student-athlete] we've been around, and I've had some pretty good ones,” AW football coach Craig Smith said. “To be No. 1 in your class and at that level [playing football], he's just a phenomenal kid.”
Cramer, who totaled 34 receptions last year, is a coach's dream - he's got the goods to get the job done in the classroom and on the field. And he appears to be on a path toward continuing his student-athlete status at the college level.
Cramer said there's not really any magical secret behind his success.
“It takes a lot of work,” he said. “You have to use your time wisely. I think it's a gift that I have just to do it. It takes a lot of work, but it will all pay off in the end.”
The Generals, who finished 5-5 overall a year ago, are one of the favorites to contend for the NLL championship. AW is one of a few teams in the NLL that enters the season with several starters returning. Cramer is a two-year letterman, having spent most of his sophomore season at safety. A shake-up last fall resulted in Cramer moving to offense as well, where he could exercise his talent to catch and run with the football.
Cramer aced the test, averaging more than 20 yards a catch. He applied himself on defense as well, recording a team-best five interceptions to go along with 85 tackles.
“Brandon has exceptional hands and has really good speed too,” Smith said. “I knew he was very talented, so I wasn't very surprised. His work ethic is second to none. I had high expectations for him last year.”
Cramer admits he really didn't expect to become a focal point on offense once he was informed of his two-way status last season. His thinking was to do whatever was necessary to help the Generals win.
“I can't say I thought about any of it,” Cramer said. “I just wanted to play hard. I had played safety the year before, so I didn't even play much offense my sophomore year.
“My junior year we switched the offense around and ran the shotgun more and we got to throw it and I just got my opportunities.”
Cramer caught more than a third of quarterback Jason Sadowski's 92 completions a year ago, which helped AW's QB produce a league-leading 1,740 passing yards. Cramer nearly caught as many passes as AW's second and third-leading receivers combined. Joe Saneholtz, who graduated, finished with 23 receptions for 411 yards and Matt Persinger, who is a senior, accounted for 15 receptions for 310 yards in the pass-oriented scheme.
Smith expects more teams will try to force Sadowski to throw the football away from Cramer this season, but he expects those plans to backfire.
Cramer is prepared to face double coverage.
“I understand they're going to be watching me more, but we've got a lot of other great receivers like Matt Persinger and Seth Holan,” Cramer said.
“We're going to spread it around a lot and I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing.”
That would include seeing playing time on defense for the third year in a row.
“I like both,” said Cramer of playing both ways. “I like to hit on defense. It really isn't a tough transition. I just go out there and play hard.”
Smith said Cramer is “like having a coach on the field, particularly on defense. You can tell him something one time in practice and he has it down pretty good for the whole week.
“He makes adjustments on our coverage calls on Friday nights from the safety position. His football awareness is very, very good.”
Such knowledge of the game of football has helped broaden his college options. Several Mid-American Conference and Ivy League programs have expressed interest in Cramer. He spent part of the summer attending football camps at Miami of Ohio and Stanford.
AW's probable valedictorian for the 2003-04 school year admits the challenge to be the best on the field has required more effort than being the best in his class.
“I actually spend more time with the sports. When it all comes down to the practicing and lifting and stuff like that, it's more time after school in sports than in school [work].”