By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
PIQUA — For Brandon Saine, playing football at Piqua High School wasn’t about establishing greatness, but merely about upholding the tradition of greatness that had been set long before he got there.
“The foundation was set before I got there,” Saine said. “They had great players and great teams before I got there. For me, it was about carrying on that tradition. Piqua is a blue-collar town that is all about dedication. They have great coaches who instill that into you. By far, that was the biggest aid to me throughout my career. I had to work hard for everything I got.
“If I had anything handed to me at Piqua, it would have been a tragedy. I wouldn’t have had to have worked as hard as I did — and that would have been a waste of the talents I already did have.”
Those values — coupled with a blazing speed that made Saine of the greatest sprinters in Ohio track and field history — helped propel Saine and his teammates to heights never seen at Piqua High School before or since. As a senior running back, Saine helped the 2006 Piqua football team to a Division II state championship, while earning Mr. Football Ohio honors at the same time. Saine would go on to play at The Ohio State University and with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.
At the Piqua football team’s home opener tonight against Toledo St. John’s, Saine — along with Craig Clemons, Dave Gallagher, Matt Finkes and Quinn Pitock — will be honored as one of five Piqua High School graduates to have played in the NFL. The five also will be honored Saturday night at a banquet at Edison Community College.
“I’m really excited,” Saine said of being honored. “It will be the first time I’ve really been able to come back Piqua since I left. It’s a great honor.”
Honors are something Saine knows plenty about, having won more than his fair share in both high school and college. In addition to being named Mr. Football as a senior, Saine was a two-time, first-team All-Ohio selection and a two-time Greater Western Ohio Conference Player of the Year. He also was a dominant sprinter for the Piqua track and field team, capturing four state titles and a national title in the 60-meter dash. He still holds the Ohio Division I state record in the 100-meter dash (10.38 seconds).
For the ever-humble Saine, however, his greatest accomplishment in high school was winning a state football title alongside his teammates.
“It was crazy,” Saine said. “We had high expectations that year — as they do every year at Piqua. We knew we had some key guys in some positions, but we really came together as a team that year. We lost our first game, which I think kind of humbled us and showed us we still had to work together asa team. Everyone had to pull their own weight. We also lost our last regular-season game, which I think humbled us again going into the playoffs. It got us in the right state of mind — we didn’t drink the Kool-Aid, so to speak.
“When I think back to that state championship, I think we learned you can’t win it as an individual. I don’t think I was even the best player on our team in the playoffs. We had so many guys step up and help us win that title.”
Followng his career at Piqua, Saine — a University of Michigan fan growing up — went on to play at The Ohio State University. He lettered for four years with the Buckeyes. In his time in Columbus, Ohio State never lost to Michigan, winning a Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl while Saine was there.
“I did grow up wearing a Desmond Howard jersey,” Saine said. “A lot of that was a product of people in my family being Michigan fans. Plus, there are so many Ohio State fans around here, so why not root for someone else? But during the recruiting process, the No. 1 reason I chose Ohio State was because of the relationship I had with the coaching staff. Plus, I felt like Ohio State had the highest upside for me.
“This may sound like a shot at Michigan, but they really didn’t actively recruit me until I already had an offer from Ohio State. Ohio State was there first. Plus, it was also the best opportunity for my family to come see me play, with Ohio State only being an hour and a half away. And my girlfriend at the time — now my wife — was also going to school in Columbus. Really, there were a lot of reasons why I chose Ohio State.”
Saine was named Ohio State’s Outstanding Freshman in 2007, Outstanding Back in 2009 and won the Warrior Award in 2010. He was Academic All-Big Ten in 2007, second-team All-Big Ten in 2009 and voted a team captain in 2010.
Saine went undrafted out of college, but signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Packers in 2011. He played for the Packers in 2011 and 2012 before a series of injuries brought his career to a premature end. Currently, Saine works in customer development for Kimberly Clark. He and his wife, Kylie, have one son, Grey.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong