Wednesday, August 10, 2011
INDEPENDENCE -- Central football fans were spoiled for three years watching the marvelous exploits of quarterback Grant Hedrick.
For three years and more than 30 games, Grant passed. He ran. He leaped over tall buildings in a single bound. He earned all sorts of honors and accolades. But then, as most high school students do, he graduated. He's now at Boise State on a scholarship, working for the backup position behind starter Kellen Moore.
That left Central fans with Tanner Omlid, a tall, slender left-hander who could win an Opie Taylor look-a-like contest. Oh boy.
Absolutely no one knew it at the time, but there was nothing to worry about.
"With Tanner, when you first see him or watch him, you may see an awkwardness about him and his athleticism," Central basketball coach Bob McBeth said. "It's hard to describe. Maybe part of it is that he's a lefty. But he does some amazing things you think he wouldn't be able to do."
Omlid first burst on the Central sports scene during the 2009-10 basketball season as a sophomore. He played with seniors Hedrick, Jesse Pratt and Jesse Peters and helped Central win the Class 4A state championship. In fact, a steal and dunk by Omlid helped seal the 56-47 win against La Grande in the state title game.
Omlid then stepped into the role of starting quarterback last season as a junior. The transition from Hedrick to Omlid was unexpectedly seamless. The team's multifaceted offense changed little if any, and Omlid displayed plenty of ability as a passer and a runner. The Panthers averaged better than 37 points per game and won the Oregon West Conference title.
"Tanner is an incredibly gifted athlete," Central football coach Shane Hedrick said. "He's as good of a person as he is an athlete. He's a fine young man to have in our program. He's above the bar academically as he is athletically."
Omlid followed up his junior season of football with perhaps an even better basketball season. He averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds and maybe two or three dunks per game. Central won the Oregon West title and went on to finish fourth at the 4A state championships.
Omlid then went on to have a solid season playing center field for the Panthers in baseball, but the team missed the playoffs by one game for a second straight season.
"I feel that we have been doing pretty good," said the soft-spoken Omlid. "We have been playing to our potential at most times. I feel like I've been doing good. I've been working with my team. They help me a lot. It's been everything I expected.
"I've always dreamed of becoming a starter and being one of the best. I'm just living the dream right now."
As he has since childhood, Omlid went to Alaska in June to work for the family commercial salmon fishing business. This year, though, he cut short the trip and came back to Oregon to play American Athletic Union basketball with a Salem-based team. "Team Jones" played about 20 games in four different tournaments in Beaverton, Seattle, Las Vegas and Long Beach, Calif.
"It was a lot of games," Omlid said. "That was a whole different level of competition. There are a lot of good players out there. Most of the teams we played were better than any team we played this (high school) season."
The level of competition led Omlid to make a few changes in his game.
"I got a better right hand," he said. "I had to rely more on 15-foot pull-ups rather than taking it to the hole and getting swatted. I had a few dunks in there. It was fun. It was nothing like high school basketball."
Omlid said there were numerous college coaches at the tournaments. But, because of NCAA rules, there was no contact between players and coaches.
Omlid, who now stands a shade over 6-foot, 3-inches, said he prefers basketball to football. But he said he would consider football after high school should that opportunity arise.
Otherwise, his plan for his final year of high school is a simple one.
"I plan on making it deep into the playoffs in all three sports," Omlid said.