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Published: Friday, 9/22/2006

Versatile Achter: Whatever the role, Clay quarterback can play it well

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Quarterback A.J. Achter, left, is a multi-sport standout at Clay, just as father, Rod, right, and Rod's twin, Roger, were. Quarterback A.J. Achter, left, is a multi-sport standout at Clay, just as father, Rod, right, and Rod's twin, Roger, were.
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In addition to his athletic talents, Clay senior quarterback A.J. Achter has also learned to be humble, patient and versatile.

The first attribute is likely the result of good genes mixed with growing up in a sports-oriented environment. The latter traits came the hard way.

Adam Joseph Achter - an accomplished football, basketball and baseball player in his own right for the Eagles - is the elder son of Rodney Achter and the nephew of Rod's twin brother Roger, the father of former Clay three-sport star Kate Achter.

Rod and Roger are two of Clay's all-time best multi-sport athletes. Combining to earn 17 varsity letters, they teamed up on Great Lakes League title teams twice in football and baseball, plus once in basketball. Most notably, they were key members of Clay's 1979 Class AAA state-championship baseball team.

As a senior, after baseball practices or games, Rod squeezed in relays on the track team and set Clay's high jump record. He later excelled as a football wideout for Toledo, was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and briefly played in the Canadian Football League.

Roger pitched at Bowling Green, and daughter Kate lettered four years each in golf, basketball and track at Clay.

She won numerous individual GLL and City League track titles in sprints and long jump, made first-team All-Ohio in basketball, and now excels on the court at BGSU.

Following that hasn't been easy for A.J., but he hasn't been burdened by the task.

"He doesn't put pressure on me," A.J. said of his father's legacy. "Kids [at Clay] my age know he played, but they don't know how good he was. He lets me do my own thing, so that's nice.

"Me and Kate have a great relationship. We talk after her basketball games. I go down to BG to watch her play all the time. She was here when I was a freshman, and we've kind of grown up together. She was always on my football team [as kids] in the back yard. She would put on the pads just like the rest of us."

A.J. has also bided his time in football and basketball.

A quarterback in junior high and as a freshman, A.J. was relegated to varsity punter as a sophomore and last year played receiver and backed up second-team All-City QB Brent Graham.

"That was very tough," A.J. said. "But Brent was a very good quarterback and we've been very good friends for a long time, so that wasn't too tough of a transition for me to move to receiver.

"We got along real well and he got me the ball. This year it's nice to finally get back under center and run the team."

Late in the 2005 football season, A.J. sustained a wrist injury initially thought to be a sprain. But early in the basketball season, X-rays revealed a fracture that required surgery. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound forward missed most of his junior season after starting on the varsity as a sophomore.

He healed well enough to help Clay to a Division I district baseball championship as the Eagles' No. 1 pitcher and starting right fielder.

"This past spring," Rod said, "when the kids won the district, I don't know who had more fun, me or A.J.

"A lot of the guys who were on our team from when we won the state still follow us.

"They were all at that [district] game, and boy that was a special moment as a parent to be able to share that. You don't get too many chances to do that with your son."

The hard-throwing right-hander recently committed to Michigan State to play baseball on scholarship.

He had earned a starting spot on the varsity a year earlier because he converted from shortstop to outfield.

Reaching the starting QB spot has been worth the wait for Achter and Clay (2-2, 0-1 City League).

Achter has completed 44 of 69 passes for 615 yards and five touchdowns, and run 34 times for 248 yards and three TDs.

Last year Achter caught 41 passes for 772 yards and seven TDs in earning second-team All-City honors. He also punted for a 36.5-yard average.

The position may be different but the player is the same.

"He's absolutely dependable," Clay coach Jeff Lee said.

"Wherever you put A.J., you know he's going to get the job done."

Judging by his baseball scholarship to a Big Ten school, A.J. has also ultimately measured up well within the family.

"It's kind of funny," Rod said. "Everybody thinks I've pushed A.J. his whole life. When he made his decision to play baseball in college, I was fine with it and loved it. Michigan State is an awesome place."

Rod, now an assistant football coach at Clay and a former head coach at Northview, gave his son an early introduction to football, and also coached him in youth baseball.

"A.J. has grown up around athletics with me," Rod said. "He was 2 years old when I started out at Northview. He came to practice with me every day, and he never missed a day.

"I told him when he was younger, 'If I have to wake you up twice for two-a-day practices, you're not going.' I never had to wake him up. He knew at a very young age what I expected from my athletes, and he hasn't missed a beat."

It was valuable experience.

"Being the son of a coach, he's always around the game and he hears the conversations and he knows and understands a little bit more," Lee said. "Not only is it the blood, but it's in the environment, too. That's an unbelievable asset."

Rod most admires his son's accomplishments away from the athletic scene.

A.J. carries a cumulative grade-point average above 3.6 and scored a qualifying 23 on his ACT college entrance exam.

"I'm definitely more proud of everything he's done off the field," Rod said. "The way he handles himself is just outstanding. Sometimes I wonder if he's really my kid. If you talk to some people they'll say, 'He can't be the son of that coach.'•"

And how does Rod, the coach, assess his son?

"It's tough because I'm looking at it as both a coach and a father, and I played totally different positions [running back and linebacker at Clay]," Rod said. "For his first year at quarterback I think he's doing a pretty good job of it.

"Sometimes I sit back and I'm a little surprised at what he's doing.

"He's always been a tall, gangly kid, and he's starting to grow into his body now. It's been neat to see the evolution happen."

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461.



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