In the world of sports, size and speed are wonderful assets. Jahvaree Ritzie of Glenn is abundantly endowed with both.
Even so, there’s far more to Ritzie than his physical attributes. Mindset is a critical part of his makeup. For him, it’s all about achieving at the highest level. In his eyes, anything less is unacceptable.
“I’m not interested in being average,” said Ritzie, a sophomore who has a 3.8 GPA. “And it’s not enough for me to just be good at something. My motivation is to be great at everything I get involved in,” he said.
Ritzie splits his time between track and football. Based on his physique — 6-foot-5, 245 pounds — it’s no surprise that as a track athlete, he competes in the shot put. But what really raises some eyebrows is that Ritzie is fast enough to run on the 4x200 relay.
In the shot put, Ritzie is among the top 10 in North Carolina. According to the latest NCRunners.com Class 4-A state rankings, he’s No. 7 (with a throw of 46 feet 6 inches). As a sprinter, he has run a 200-meter split of 22.7 seconds in the 4x200 relay.
Ritzie is looking to crack the top four in the shot put and receive All-State honors at the NCHSAA Class 4-A state indoor championships Saturday at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem. The Bobcats 4x200 relay team didn’t make the qualifying cut for the state, but it is expected to be a formidable presence for the outdoor season.
“Because of his size, there was never a doubt that he would get his share of looks from college football scouts,” said Antwon Stevenson, the football coach at Glenn. “But when they find out that Jahvaree is a sprinter, their eyes light up. The kind of ability he has comes around every so often.”
Kindra Ritzie-Worthy, who is Jahvaree’s mother and his track coach at Glenn, agrees wholeheartedly with Stevenson. Mom/coach has her own unique perspective about her son’s potential as a two-sport athlete in college.
“Jahvaree is an anomaly,” she said. “He’s not a typical athlete. Right now, it’s hard to tell what his best event is for track and field. What I can say with certainty is that the stronger he gets, the faster he gets. Football is his main sport, but I advise him that track is also a viable avenue for college. He’s a good enough athlete to do both if he so desires.”
As a track coach, Ritzie-Worthy is faced with the dilemma of devising a track training regimen that’s best for her son. Jahvaree participates in off-season football workouts four days a week. Because of that, there’s not a lot of time for him to take part in full-scale workouts for the shot and the sprints.
“At times, it’s a struggle,” she said. “But football is his first love, and I keep that mind. For me, it’s about being understanding and being flexible. I’ve had to alter his workouts from what they would be if he was concentrating strictly on track. Aside from that, it’s important that Jahvaree get enough rest from football and track workouts. That’s a key to reduce the risk of injury.”
Although Ritzie has only played one season of varsity football, he is quickly becoming a well-known commodity among college coaches. Last fall was his first season playing defensive end, and he delivered like a seasoned veteran. Ritzie started every game and finished the season with 43 tackles, eight sacks, 13 tackles for losses and five passes defended.
So far, Ritzie has offers from Syracuse, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, N.C. State, East Carolina and Charlotte. Given that he still has two more years of high school remaining, more offers are sure to follow.
“Jahvaree is well on his way to becoming a dominant player all the time,” Stevenson said. “That’s because he is never satisfied and always wants to do whatever it takes to get better. He realizes that it’s time for him to put in the work now, so that he’ll reap the rewards later.”
The overnight notoriety that Ritzie has experienced isn’t likely to send his ego soaring to the upper layers of the stratosphere. Humility is said to be one of his strongest personality traits.
“What has always stood out about Jahvaree is how humble he is,” Kindra Ritzie-Worthy said. “With all the attention he’s gotten as an athlete, you could never tell what he’s achieved by the way he acts. I tell him all the time to stay humble and see what God will do for you.”
Ritzie admits that he is surprised by the intense interest that he has generated among the college scouts. Still, he sees no reason why he should think and feel differently about who he is as a person.
“There really is no need for me brag about anything,” he said. “I’ll just continue to be me. I’m still the same person and I’m still going to do what I need to do, to accomplish what I want to accomplish.”
—Craig T. Greenlee