IRONTON — Reid Carrico is just trying to earn a starting job.
That's right. The No. 1 inside linebacker in the country in the Class of 2021, as rated by 247Sports.com, doesn't consider himself a starter on his Ironton football team.
"My spot isn't reserved," Carrico said Wednesday during the team's media day at Tanks Memorial Stadium.
Chances are exceedingly strong that the 6-foot-3, 225-pound junior will be on the field for the Fighting Tigers' first play in the season opener against Wheelersburg on Aug. 30. Carrico, though, treats the preseason as he did as a freshman, working for a starting job.
Such humility and work ethic endear Carrico to college recruiters. So do his 4.5 speed across 40 yards, astonishing lateral quickness, car-crusher hits and intelligence on and off the field.
Carrico owns an offer virtually every Ohio kid dreams of, a scholarship to Ohio State. He also was offered by national champion Clemson, where he visited two weeks ago, and runner-up Alabama. The list of others is impressive: Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Penn State, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, LSU, USC, Michigan State, Marshall, Texas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Akron, Arkansas, Duke, Vanderbilt, Indiana, Iowa State, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Toledo, Louisville, Mississippi, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Ohio and Pittsburgh, among others.
Carrico said he's not concerned with whether he'll wear scarlet and gray, crimson and white or any other color of college uniform. He said plenty of time to make that decision awaits.
"You can make it as crazy as you want," Carrico said of recruiting. "I'm not playing for Ohio State or Kentucky right now. I'm a Fighting Tiger."
Carrico is one of the reasons expectations are high for the most-storied program in southeastern Ohio.
Carrico, quarterback Gage Salyers, who committed to Youngstown State, and a bevy of other talented players have people talking about Ironton winning its first state championship since 1989. More than 500 people attended last week's Midnight Madness practice.
More than talk is needed, however, to better last season's 6-5 record that included a 28-6 loss to Wheelersburg. Carrico said he is working hard to become a better player. While recruiters and recruiting services, such as 247, Rivals and others have noticed.
"Carrico was outstanding in camps and particularly impressed Midwest expert Allen Trieu at Michigan State's prospect camp," wrote 247 director of scouting Barton Simmons. "He's up to No. 34 in the country based on versatile, athletic film that checked out in person."
The kind words were appreciated by Carrico, but he said he is the same as always.
"I haven't really changed much," Carrico said. "I've always worked hard. I hear the recruiting rankings stuff, but it goes in one ear and out the other. That 247 stuff doesn't mean that much to me."
Carrico has changed a bit from his sophomore season. He noticed his game jersey was "a little tight" when he put it on for the team picture. He's faster than in 2018 and stronger than he's ever been.
A fan of Marvel movies, Carrico is attaining superhero status in a program with a hall of fame full of them. Jermon Jackson. Ken Fritz. Bobby Brice. Coy Bacon. George McAfee. Dennis Bacon. Dan Pride. Many others.
Carrico's biggest fan might be Tigers coach Trevon Pendleton, a former star fullback at Michigan State.
"It's a neat situation," Pendleton said of the schools recruiting Carrico. "It couldn't happen to a better person. It's great to see him reap the benefits of the hard work he's put in. He knows the individual stuff will come, but he's very humble and team oriented."
Also a star on Ironton's basketball team, Carrico said he likes shooting pool and hanging out with friends during his spare time. He said he hopes to major in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering or business.
"Probably engineering," Carrico said. "Everybody majors in business."
Carrico enjoys being different in some ways, but just one of 69 players on the same team in another. He said he hears people talk about him, but he would rather hear them discuss the Tigers.
"There is a load of excitement about this team," Carrico said. "At Ironton, people always are excited. I hear people talk about football at the barbershop and other places. That's how it is here."
With that, Carrico turned the conversation away from him and to his teammates.
"We have a lot of seniors and juniors," Carrico said. "The underclassmen are showing promise. I feel better about this team than I did last year. Our guys know their assignments and there are position battles everywhere."
Even at inside linebacker, at least as far as Carrico is concerned.