CHARLESTON -- With more than one year remaining before he graduates high school, there's not much Ryan Switzer has yet to accomplish.
"I haven't won one yet," the George Washington High School junior running back said after his team fell 35-27 to Martinsburg in the Class AAA state championship game Dec. 3 in Wheeling.
"There's always that to drive me."
The quest for a George Washington's first state football title since 1982 will likely see Switzer pad an already impressive personal resume. He won a pair of state track championships as a freshman, converted a key late-game layup that helped the Patriots to a state basketball championship as a sophomore and in three seasons as a football starter, he is the central figure of a class that has a 34-6 varsity record.
He's now got a Kennedy Award to his credit.
In a runaway, Switzer's nod as the state's top prep football player came via the most lopsided vote since Nitro's Josh Culbertson secured all but one first-place vote for the 2005 Kennedy. Switzer took all but two. Fittingly, Culbertson was the last Class AAA running back to win the award prior to Switzer, whose 2,785 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns were the most in either category for Class AAA runners in a single season since Culbertson ran for 3,587 yards six years ago.
Martinsburg quarterback Brandon Ashenfelter finished second in balloting by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association. East Hardy quarterback Kollin Foltz was third, followed by Roane County quarterback Dylan Cottrell and Bridgeport running back Brett Hathaway.
Hathaway, a junior, is the only underclassman among the top five vote-getters.
Switzer is the eighth junior to win the award since it was first given in 1947.
Of the juniors who won, four went on to claim the award as seniors.
Switzer has grown in status from being a Kanawha Valley phenomenon as a freshman in 2009 to being an all-state selection at punter a year later and the captain of the Class AAA all-state offense in 2011. By the time he was a sophomore most knew him to be the heir apparent as to then-senior all-state running back Felix Mollett as George Washington's primary ball carrier.
While Switzer led the Patriots in receiving as a starting wideout in 2010 with 29 catches for 602 yards and nine touchdowns, some questioned whether he possessed the durability that allowed Mollett to rush for a school single- season record of 2,024 yards and 29 touchdowns on 261 carries the same year.
Mollett was thicker than Switzer, and while also fast, he gained many of his yards after initiating contact with defenders at the line of scrimmage.
As it turned out Switzer could pick up yards after contact too. He often just didn't need to. Instead of a battering ram, Switzer equipped GW with a whirling dervish that kept defenders grasping for air throughout the 2011 season.
"He's really grown as a football player," GW Coach Steve Edwards Jr. said. "He's always had a great work ethic and he's always understood the game. But this year he learned to pick his spots better. I think he learned more about himself and what his strengths are and how to better use those strengths."
The junior's 2011 highlight video is easy to find on YouTube, and presents numerous incidences of Switzer running around, past and even over opposing defenses. One such run, against Ashland High School on Sept. 2, serves as a perfect example of Switzer's elusiveness.
From a shotgun formation Switzer took a handoff from GW quarterback Trevor Bell and headed directly into the interior of the Tomcats' defensive line. Without being visibly touched, Switzer stopped, spun 360 degrees to his left, slipped out of the reach of the Tomcats' defensive end and made for the clear for a 53-yard touchdown.
Another highlight shows Switzer, who punted and handled kickoff duties for the Patriots, recovering his own onside kick against Parkersburg.
There were similar occurrences in nearly every game. By midseason, opposing coaches had largely bypassed talking about ways to shut Switzer down, opting instead for sheer admiration.
That trend continued even after the Patriots' lone loss of the season.
Martinsburg held Switzer to a season-low 115 yards and two touchdowns.
"Switzer is just a fantastic player. I don't know what he had, but he's going to get his yards," Martinsburg Coach Dave Walker said. "He's the best player in the state."
A member of the ESPN Top 150 recruiting watch list for high school players scheduled to graduate in 2013, Switzer adds the Kennedy to an already lengthy list of accolades. He was the Mountain State Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Kanawha Valley Player of the Year and Gatorade West VIrginia Player of the Year after being named ESPN's East Region Player of the Week after the Patriots' 56-12 rout of Parkersburg on Nov. 4.
In that game Switzer ran for 328 yards and six touchdowns while adding a 51-yard punt return for a score. It is believed to be a single-game rushing record against the state's all-time winningest program.
Most recently, Switzer was listed as an honorable mention running back on the Sports Illustrated High School All-American team. He is one of five underclassmen in the entire list.
Again a key member of George Washington's basketball team, Switzer will take a hiatus from the court this week to participate in the UnderArmour All America Combine at the ESPN/Wide World of Sport Complex in Orlando, Fla. An invite-only event, the combine includes up to 150 of nation's top prep players.
Florida State, Penn State, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Bowling Green, Ohio, Marshall and Purdue have already offered scholarships for Switzer to play football for their teams. Oregon, Nebraska and Michigan State have jumped with both feet into the recruiting fray of late while Notre Dame and Tennessee have maintained steady contact throughout his junior year.
In three seasons, Switzer has amassed 5,145 total yards (rushing, receiving, returns) and scored 60 touchdowns.