GREENSBURG — South Decatur senior Byron Balser said basketball is his first love.
He just happens to be pretty good at football.
And “pretty good” he was this past season. The 6-foot-2 senior wide receiver caught 66 passes for 795 yards and eight touchdowns to earn The Republic’s South Decatur Player of the Year honors.
Balser played four years for the Cougars, starting out primarily junior varsity his freshman year, and with a little help from a sudden growth spurt transitioned to varsity his sophomore year before his breakout junior season, when he caught more than 800 yards worth of passes.
On a team focusing primarily on passing, Balser made a name for himself by staying after and working with junior quarterback Chris Johannigman. He quickly became Johannigman’s favorite receiver, helping lead the Cougars to more than 2,400 passing yards this season.
Head coach Rodney Martin said that Balser just “found ways to get open.”
“He’s not a super-fast kid,” Martin said. “He makes up by running good routes. He has good size and is committed to the football.”
Balser set three school records in his career: receptions in a single game (19 as a junior), most receiving yards in a single game (267 this season) and longest touchdown reception (93 yards this season).
“I give all the credit I got this season to my offensive line and quarterback,” Balser said. “If it wasn’t for the offensive line, Chris could not have gotten me the ball.”
Martin attributes Balser’s success not only to his size but his work ethic and positive attitude.
“Everybody loves him,” Martin said. “He’s a funny guy with a great personality. He always kept practice lively and was determined to improve.”
When asked about Balser’s future in football, Martin said if an opportunity presented itself to play in college, Balser would definitely consider it, although right now he is looking into basketball after high school.
Balser is sad to see football season go, saying that the season was a roller coaster but he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“I’m just thankful to the coaches and other seniors,” Balser said. “They gave me the greatest four years I could have ever asked for.”