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January 2, 2014

The Herald Bulletin 2013 Offensive Football Athlete of the Year: Sammy Mireles

ELWOOD — The cloak of anonymity engulfing Sammy Mireles finally was lifted in 2013.

The Elwood senior's pursuit — and ultimate capture — of the state rushing record brought Indianapolis television cameras to the Panthers' sideline on multiple occasions. It led to a fourth-place finish in voting for Indiana's Mr. Football award — behind three players from parochial schools, prompting Elwood coach Marty Wells to opine Mireles was honored as the state's top public school star.

Gatorade went one step forward, selecting the diminutive running back as the state's player of the year.

And, yet, the honor that seemed to touch Mireles the most hits much closer to home. On Feb. 28, Elwood will retire his No. 24 jersey during a halftime ceremony at the final boys basketball home game. Also honored will be the late Kevin Frye — who wore Nos. 24 and 34 during his career with the Panthers and will be represented by his son, Justin, the offensive line coach at Boston College — and former school rushing record holder Chris Noone, a current assistant to Wells whose No. 34 jersey also will be raised to the rafters.

Elwood never has retired a number for a football player before, and the gesture left Mireles grasping for words.

"It's another thing I'll never forget," he finally managed.

That's a long list for a player who is now inextricably linked to the Panthers' program.

An October night in Alexandria must rank near the top.

In front of an overflow crowd, the host Tigers and Elwood put on one of the games of the year. With former record holder Otis Shannon of Cathedral watching from the sideline alongside officials from the IHSAA, Mireles set a new state standard with a 24-yard run in the third quarter.

More than two months later, however, the running back remains at least equally impressed with the Panthers' 49-42 victory in a thrilling back-and-forth contest.

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