STEPHENS CITY ― Joel Santmier has enjoyed being a leader.
The Sherando senior offensive and defensive lineman said he wasn’t sure if he would like being a leader this season, but it has been much more rewarding for him than he thought.
“I try to lead as much as possible by example,” Santmier said. “I am vocal sometimes. …You just help other people, especially when they’re having a bad day. You just kind of talk to them. And it’s interesting. I never thought it was going to be like that. But it ended up being like that.”
Santmier has been helping lead the Warriors all season. Sherando (9-1) plays Kettle Run on Friday in the football Region 4C semifinals at Shenandoah University at 4:45 p.m. The game was moved to Shenandoah due to the forecasted weather.
Santmier said he had a good leader to follow when he was a younger player on the team ― 2017 Sherando graduate Dylan Rivers. Santmier said the Virginia Tech sophomore linebacker had a big influence on him two years ago.
“(Rivers) made it his point to make me better every day,” Santmier said. “And try to just make me a better athlete, which was really hard and challenging. But at the same time, it made me a better athlete, so that was pretty fun.”
Sherando coach Bill Hall said the fact that Santmier was chosen by his teammates to be a captain says a lot about him.
Hall said that Santmier isn’t afraid to speak up if he needs to.
“If something needs to be said, he’s not afraid to say it,” Hall said. “It’s not always easy or comfortable, but sometimes those things need to be said. Your best teams, your successful championship teams are the ones that are self-led and hold each other accountable. So he’s part of that leadership group that does that for us.”
Santmier’s leadership skills may come in handy in the future. Santmier said that he wants to go into the ROTC program at Old Dominion University next year.
Santmier is a starter on both the offensive and defensive lines. He said he has mostly played at those positions throughout his career and he enjoys them.
Santmier said there is a special bond between the guys on the offensive and defensive lines.
“The offensive line is like a brotherhood of just the lineman,” Santmier said. “Our goal is to protect (Sherando quarterback) Hunter (Entsminger), which is another sort of brotherhood sort of thing. It’s more of a mentality being an offensive lineman. You never give up and just give all your effort every play.”
Santmier has helped pave the way for Sherando’s 2,146 rushing yards this season.
Santmier said he loves playing at defensive tackle even more than on the offensive line.
He has 26 tackles this season with two sacks.
Hall said some of Santmier’s biggest assets come from his physical strength.
“He’s as strong as an ox,” Hall said. “Joel’s very strong. He’s worked extremely hard in the offseason program and if you look at him ― he’s a weight room warrior. He’s one of those kids where he’s really maximized his potential. He’s worked relentlessly to be the best version of himself. He’s very physical at the point of attack. He’s very knowledgeable of the scheme and understanding what his job is. And executes that at a very high level to the best of his ability.”
Santmier said he usually lifts weights every day except Sundays in the offseason and every other day during the season.
“I love it,” Santmier said of weightlifting. “I like just trying to beat myself every day. I try to beat what I did last week, beat what I did the day before. And just always trying to get better. It’s something you can see visually like ‘I’m getting better’ or ‘I’m plateauing what do I need to do differently?'”
The Warriors lost in the Class 4 state semifinals last season. Santmier said that being a senior this season has made him and his teammates want to do even better and give everything they’ve got.
“It gives me more drive to make sure we try to win it all this year because it’s our last year,” Santmier said. “A lot of us are seniors. So it definitely puts a lot of fire in all of us to go harder every day.”