Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

June 26, 2013

Community National Bank and Trust 2013 All-Golden Circle Athletes of the Year

Mike Phillips
Ron Farmer

Steels all-round athlete

It was the year of the Polar Bear at Frost High School, where the football team and boys basketball team soared to new heights.

But it was also the year of Danial Steels, who soared higher than any athlete in the Golden Circle with an unforgettable year that saw Steels shine on the gridiron, the basketball court, the baseball diamond, the tennis court and on the track.

Oh yes, and while Steels was taking the fans’ breath away with moves in the open field and drives on the court, he was putting together a 4.0 GPA in the classroom.

He was an easy choice to win the 2012-2013 Daily Sun’s Golden Circle Community National Bank and Trust Male Athlete of the Year award.

Steels was named to the Class 1A first-team All-State football team and to the Class 1A first-team All-State basketball team, a rare feat that may not be repeated in this area for years.

He won the Daily Sun’s Mike Montfort Offensive MVP award in football while taking home the Daily Sun’s Golden Circle Player of the Year in basketball.

He qualified for the region tennis tournament and played on Frost’s baseball team, and then at the end of the school year, Steels qualified for five events in the region track & field meet, earned a trip to the Class 1A state track & field meet in two events, and took home fifth-place in the 100 meters, just to put a little frosting on an already spectacular cake.

And it did it all quietly.

There is no swag, no bravado to Steels, who plays the game with class and character and an old-school mentality.

“I can’t do that,’’ said Steels, who doesn’t understand why athletes showboat and hot-dog it on the field. “I’ve always been taught to talk on the field and on the court. I don’t celebrate or anything. It seems unnecessary. I just do my thing. I do what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s not a big show.’’

He did some fancy oration on the football field, gaining 1,878 yards and scoring 29 touchdowns while leading Frost to the Class 1A Division II Region finals, where the Polar Bears lost a heartbreaker, 34-30, to state finalist Tenaha, falling just two yards short as the clock ran out.

Steels never flaunted his ability to dominate a basketball game, and averaged 24 points and 10.8 rebounds per game while listening to a number of players get in his face and trash talk to him on the court. He simply never talked back.

“Some guys try to talk (trash) during football and in basketball,’’ Steels said. “It’s worse in basketball because the guy is guarding you and he has more time to talk to you. They try to get to you. I just don’t say anything.’’

Silent Steels, the Silent Killer.

“He never showed any emotion. He never let anything get to him. He is a humble kid,’’ said Eric Blendon, who coached Steels in football and basketball. “He’s a great athlete, but you would never know it by talking to him. He works hard and works a lot on his own time. He grew up a lot this year and became the total package as a leader. We could tell our younger kids, if you want to be like someone, be like Danial.’’

Blendon still is impressed with the fact Steels was so talented he made the all-state team in both football and basketball.

“As good as a football player as he was, he was even a better basketball player,’’ Blendon said. “He can back up and hit a 3 or he can go to the basket. He can do it all. He can go down low and guard someone who is six inches taller than he is or guard someone six inches shorter because he is so quick.’’

Possibly the greatest compliment to Steels is how other coaches felt about him.

“All the coaches would say, ‘Thank God he’s a senior,’ ’’ Blendon said with a laugh. “He’s a phenomenal athlete but you can hardly get him to say a word. You would go with him for a soda or something and he wouldn’t say five words the whole time.

“On the field he just gave us whatever we needed. If we needed three yards he got four. If we needed four yards he got five. He has a knack for doing whatever it takes, doing whatever we needed. He wasn’t the fastest player on the field and he wasn’t the strongest, but he had the combination and he had the drive to get it done.’’

His first love was basketball.

“I picked up a basketball when I was 4 years old, and loved it then,’’ Steels said. “It’s still my favorite sport, but my best memory of this year is the football team. We went 3-7 and then 5-5 my sophomore and junior years and I was always getting beat up. We didn’t win much, and this year we won so much and we were good. It was so much fun. Everything about this season was special, even the two-days. We had that feeling that something exciting was going to happen.’’

It did. The season was like no other.

“It’s my best memory because we turned everything around,’’ Steels said. “It was so much fun because everyone — the fans, everyone — had so much fun. It was special.’’

Steels didn’t even play football until he was 12, and still wears No. 12 to this day because of that. When he arrived in Frost from College Station in seventh grade, the coaches knew they had something special.

“I played in a football game in eighth grade and I carried the ball every time except twice,’’ Steels said. “I gained over 250 yards or something like that and I was exhausted.’’

He loves both sports, and that’s one of the many reasons Steels decided to accept a scholarship to Prairie View A&M. He wanted to make sure wherever he went to college that he could play football and basketball.

No problem. He got exactly what he wanted.

More importantly, Steels liked the engineering program.

“I liked the campus and liked everything about the school,’’ Steels said. “And I liked their engineering program. That was important to me.’’

He plans on becoming an electrical engineer — just like his grandfather.

“He’s a great kid,’’ Blendon said. “He’s very smart, very ambitious.’’

Steels, the silent Steeles, laughed and talked and was at ease during his interview with the Daily Sun. He joked about how his younger sister does all the talking in the family, and that’s why he’s so quiet. He poured his heart out talking about the bitter loss to Tenaha and looked back and embraced his senior year, and everything it meant to him.

“It was such a special year,’’ he said, his voice dropping a bit as he looked back. “A real special year.’’

It was the year of the Polar Bear — the year of Danial Steels.

Record setting year for Farmer

No one knows exactly how or why it happens, but there are those moments when Mildred’s Olivia Farmer simply takes over — moments when she slips into her own zone, skying high above the volleyball net or creating magic on the basketball court or slamming the biggest hit of the night in a softball game.

She simply rises above.

Call it the Olivia zone — the O-Zone.

That’s where Farmer lives, jumping from sport to sport and taking over time and time again, and after completing one of the most remarkable years in any high school sports career, Farmer is rising once again — this time as the winner of the Daily Sun’s 2012-2013 Community National Bank and Trust All-Golden Circle Female Athlete of the Year award.

Farmer was the co-winner of this award a year ago, but claims it on her own as a senior after an unforgettable season in the sun.

Farmer was the Daily Sun’s Golden Circle Player of the Year in volleyball, the Golden Circle co-offensive Player of the Year in basketball and the Golden Circle Player of the Year in softball — an almost impossible trifecta.

She helped turn the volleyball program around at Mildred, ignited the basketball program and was a big part of Mildred’s playoff run in softball.

The only thing more mind-boggling than her dominance in each sport is her versatility. Imagine, she gave up track this year, where she was a star in her own right, competing in the triple jump and the mile relay. She cleared 10 feet in the pole vault as a sophomore. Somehow, she found time to also be a cheerleader at Mildred this year.

You get the feeling if a one-act play of Romeo and Juliet broke out at second base that she could drop her glove and bat, and play both roles. She’s that versatile.

And that talented.

“She is one of the best females to ever come through here. One of the best I’ve ever seen,’’ Mildred football and softball coach Billy Dan Chambliess said.

There’s no argument. Farmer is one of a kind.

“I just hate to sit still,’’ said Farmer, who fell in love with sports when she was 4 years old playing T-ball as the only girl on the all-boys team. “I just can’t sit still for very long. I have to do something.’’

And she does everything amazingly well. She even rises in the classroom and after playing sports in every season, Farmer graduated with a 3.86 GPA.

Her toughest moments? When seasons overlap.

“She can go from sport to sport and not miss a beat,’’ Chambliess said.

But she never likes the transition.

“It’s hard. I love all the sports,’’ Farmer said. “I will still be playing volleyball when basketball starts. I get mad when a sport starts without me. All my friends would be asking me, ‘When are you going to get out here?’ And I hate it when (the sport I’m playing ends in the playoffs). I just hate to lose.’’

Her coaches say that’s what drives Farmer, her passion for winning.

She didn’t even play volleyball until she was a sophomore, but grew to love it.

“She came a whole long way for someone who didn’t want to play,’’ Mildred volleyball coach Joanna Vaden said. “I had a lot of help getting her to play. The other kids on the team kept telling me you have to get Olivia to play.’’

Finally, one of the volleyball players approached Farmer, and she decided to add volleyball to her resume.

“She showed up to that first practice in August, and there has been no stopping her since then,’’ Vaden said. “Her first year we made the playoffs for the first time in history. She’s just a great all-around player and her hitting was amazing. She ended up with more than 600 kills in her career, a school record.’’

Farmer set the single-season school record for kills as a senior with 383, 7and was a big reason Mildred’s volleyball team turned the corner.

“The first volleyball camp I went to was so hard,’’ Farmer said. “The workouts were really hard. I hurt so bad. But I love it. I love volleyball.’’

Vaden saw first-hand just what life in the O-Zone is like.

“The more competitive it gets, the more she wants to play,’’ Vaden said. “She hates to lose.’’

Farmer is like that in every sport. She has been playing some form of baseball since she was 4 and started playing in Little Dribblers basketball when she was 5.

“She played on the same Little Dribblers team with (Mildred quarterback Nic Shimonek, who is going to Iowa on a football scholarship) and when we first played the scores were so one sided that the second year they didn’t keep score,’’ Olivia’s father, Shane Farmer, said. “But Olivia always wanted to know the score and we would tell the kids.’’

They keep score in high school, and Farmer had some highlight moments.

“I’ll never forget her 32 points against Hubbard,’’ said Mildred girls basketball coach Dale Clement. “She couldn’t miss and I was just saying, ‘Give her he ball.’ She had a three-game run where she scored 27, 29 and 32.’’

Just call it the O-Zone.

 “She’s just an amazing player,’’ Clement said. “Defensively, she averaged five steals a game and there’s very few who can get the ball around her.’’

But what really leaves Clement speechless is the way Farmer sees the game before it happens.

“She has amazing court vision,’’ he said. “She will see things develop ahead of time, and I will be standing on the sidelines and I can’t see it, but she does. It’s amazing.’’

Farmer was a leader on every team she played on from being the go-to-girl in volleyball that everyone believed in to leading her softball team as a third baseman and outfielder and pitcher and hitting .621 with six homers and 52 RBIs while stealing 35 bases.

“She has a leadership quality to her,’’ Clement said. “She has such great court presence. Her being on the court helps put everyone on the same page.’’

Farmer averaged 15.4 points a game and made 53 3-pointers, shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc, but her first love is still softball, and that’s what she will play at Navarro College, where she earned a scholarship. It wasn’t a tough sell. Farmer has wanted to play softball at Navarro since she attended her first camp there as a youngster.

“She will be one of the ones at Navarro,’’ said Chambliess, who has no doubt Farmer will have a great career on the diamond at the next level. “She did everything for us. I hate to see her go.’’

Clement said, “I wish I had her for four more years,” and Vaden feels the same way.

Farmer still has a hard time talking about Mildred’s loss in the playoffs that ended the season and her career, but she walked off the diamond with no regrets.

“I left it all out there,’’ she said.

She always did — right out there in the O-Zone.