Let’s get this up front, Ryne Roper ain’t no softie.
After watching him for the last eight or nine years — seems like — the young man that spoke to campers in a full cafeteria at Massac County High School who were attending the Fellowship of Christian Athletes sports camps last week hardly resembled the warrior that directed the Harrisburg football team or the sharpshooter that played a pivotal part in Harrisburg’s march to a Class AA basketball championship or the Gatorade Prep Baseball Player of the Year for Illinois.
That’s not a hint at hypocrisy either.
Ryne Roper, out of uniform, is a humble, considerate young man who wears a bracelet that reminds him that he is “number two.”
The number two is to remind him of who comes first in his life.
His soft-spoken, 15-minute address to a crowd of almost 200 young athletes last Tuesday was his own story of his religion and his relationship with God.
Through it all, and Roper had a fabulous year by any account, he tried to keep a “second best” perspective.
Roper’s Bulldogs made it to the quarterfinal round of the IHSA Class AA football playoff (quarterbacked).
We Patriot fans all saw way too much of Ryne on a basketball court over the past three years as a starting guard on the Class AA champions and on the diamond, Roper was good enough to be named the Gatorade Prep Player of the Year as well as the Southern Illinoisan’s Player of the Year.
Roper said, “The accolades are very nice but I try to keep a level head about it. I understand the perspective of things.”
Longtime Harrisburg baseball Coach Jay Thompson summed up Roper and his career rather well, “He made straight A’s in school, he won a good citizenship award and he was a great teammate and leader. I always admired the fact that he never acted like he was the best player out there. I’ve been here at Harrisburg forever and I’ve never said this on the record, but he is without a doubt, the best baseball player who ever played at Harrisburg.”
When asked why he chose Illinois for his collegiate baseball career when the ground doesn’t thaw until mid-April, Roper laughed and said, “It’s a great academic school, and I’ll get to play with my brother.”
His older brother, Reid, is a redshirt junior.