Next Cats: Caldwell's gifted QB Sindelar humble amid the hype

mfields@herald-leader.comAugust 21, 2013 

PRINCETON — Elijah Sindelar has every reason to be swaggering into his junior year at Caldwell County.

The 6-foot-5 quarterback led the Tigers to a state runner-up finish in Class 2A last fall; he has thrown for 5,654 yards and 51 touchdowns over the past two seasons, and he got a scholarship offer from Kentucky in June.

Heady stuff for a high school kid who's also a baseball and basketball star.

But there's no swagger in Sindelar. Despite all the hype, he is a model of humility who puts his faith and his family ahead of football.

"I just play for God and let him do whatever he wants with me," Sindelar said. "I want people to see Him through me. That's my only goal when I'm out on the field.

"I pray and read my Bible. I ask the Lord, 'Don't let me get a big head,' and he doesn't put too much on my shoulders that I can't handle."

Sindelar's parents (Scott and Janelle), his older sisters (Christiana, Jacquelyn and Makenzie), and his coaches help keep him grounded.

"When things get overwhelming, I can always go talk to them," he said.

Social media is all the rage among athletes these days, but Sindelar is rarely a participant. He doesn't have a Twitter account — "That's not me," he said matter-of-factly — and while he has a Facebook page, he can go months without updating it. He has an iPhone, but he uses it mainly to text his family and his girlfriend, not to post updates of his every move.

He even keeps a low profile around his teammates.

"If I have to call a college coach, or talk to (the media), I try to do it outside of practice, keep it separate from team stuff," he said. "I don't want people to be jealous."

Sindelar's talent was obvious from his first varsity start as a freshman. In Caldwell County's first game that season, he set a school record by throwing for 552 yards and six touchdowns in an 80-62 win over Calloway County.

He finished the year with 2,694 yards and 19 TDs, but the Tigers lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Sindelar raised his game and his team last season. He completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,961 yards and 32 TDs while leading Caldwell County to an 11-4 record.

The Tigers lost to Newport Central Catholic 30-26 in the state finals. Sindelar threw for 258 yards and two TDs, and ran for 54 yards and a score.

"I knew watching Elijah as a seventh- and eighth-grader that he could be a special player," Coach David Barnes said. "He's very smart, very athletic and very coachable. And he's a leader.

"He does a good job reading coverages, he gets rid of the ball quick, and he's got a strong arm. He's a student of the game, too. He's always working to get better."

Primarily a passer, Sindelar is big (200 pounds) and fast (4.7 in the 40) enough to be a running threat, too. He rushed for 447 yards and seven TDs last season.

The quarterbacks he likes to emulate?

"I really like Tim Tebow because he's a very strong Christian," Sindelar said. "And I like Drew Brees for being a leader and the way he plays."

UK was the first big school to recruit Sindelar hard. Soon after Mark Stoops hired Neal Brown as his offensive coordinator last fall, Brown made the trip to Western Kentucky and bumped into Sindelar at school.

Louisville and Ohio State started showing interest soon after that, and Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier got in touch.

Sindelar made the camp circuit this spring and summer. He went to UK twice, Alabama, Ohio State and Louisville. He also went to a team camp at Murray State.

(A funny sidelight to how he measured up on his trips: "Ohio State had me at 6-5, UK had me 6-3 and Louisville had me 6-4. I call myself 6-5 because that's the tallest," Sindelar said with a laugh.)

In the hurry-up world of recruiting nowadays, Sindelar knows he'll need to make a decision sooner, not later.

Besides UK, Western Kentucky and Toledo have offered, and more schools are sure to follow suit this fall.

"I've been talking to a lot of college coaches and they say you've got to commit early if you're a quarterback because schools usually only take one a year," he said.

"I'll probably commit in the spring, or maybe earlier. It'll be up to what my family and I discuss and pray about toward the middle and end of this season."

Sindelar hopes to end this season with a return trip to Bowling Green for the state finals.

"Nothing less," he said with determination, not swagger.

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.

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