J.J. Stainbrook removed himself from last year’s Columbus East football roster, but he never actually left the team.

Stainbrook wasn’t too happy with his football experience as a freshman and sophomore because he felt he needed a bigger and stronger build to play the sport. He decided not to join the team as an athlete his junior year, but still was a member of last year’s Class 5A state runner-up team as a manager.

Now, the senior is back in a helmet and pads for the Olympians.

Stainbrook still felt very involved in last year’s manager role. He participated in the sideline huddles by holding the tablet when coach Bob Gaddis needed to look at a play. He also snapped balls for the quarterbacks during practice, pumped balls up for the games and assisted in whatever way the team needed.

Gaddis said Stainbrook still being around the team as a manager played a major role in him wanting to come back as a player.

“I think he just missed it, so he made the decision to come back out and started training with us in the offseason again,” Gaddis said. “He’s has a great attitude and works hard. Everybody respects the fact that he comes out here and does anything that he can for the team every day.”

Stainbrook worked hard in the offseason to get that stronger build he was looking for and said it has paid off. He isn’t a starter, but gets some playing time on special teams, and he is always one of the first players to be called on when Gaddis decides to pull his starters.

The Olympians are averaging a win margin of more than 39 points per game, so there has been plenty of opportunities for Gaddis to make personnel changes in the second halves of games.

Stainbrook has taken advantage of his opportunities with a 15-yard run against run at Jeffersonville in Week 8 and also has made a few postseason plays. He had a 15-yard reception in the first round of the sectional at Seymour and had to fill in as a kick returner in the sectional semifinal against Bedford North Lawrence after a teammate went out with a broken hand.

“Coach always says ‘Next man up,'” Stainbrook said. “When my time comes, I’m going to go and do my hardest.”

Stainbrook has received Scout Team Player of the Week honors six times this season. The offensive and defensive Scout Team Players of the Week are voted by the East coaching staff.

Gaddis said Stainbrook always has had a solid work ethic since he joined his freshman year, but Stainbrook’s boost in confidence is what Gaddis said is different for him this season.

Stainbrook said being able to learn and listen to the coaching staff as a manager has helped prepare him for this season. He said the being a part of the ride to last year’s championship game was fun, and now, he has another opportunity to get back there as a player.

First, East will have to get past Terre Haute North in the regional game Friday. If the Olympians build a big lead, Stainbrook will be ready.

Author photo
Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.