After every touchdown this season, Lawrence goes for a two-point conversion, because Brad Strauss apparently can’t kick a field goal.
“I can’t even get the ball in the air,” Strauss said with a laugh Tuesday after practice.
Of course, that’s about the only thing Strauss can’t do for the Chesty Lions, who won 26 state football titles from 1945-95 and rank among the nation’s most accomplished football powers with 31 undefeated seasons.
Strauss – a senior, three-year starter at quarterback for Lawrence – leads the Sunflower League in total offense.
He’s completed 70 of 114 passes for 1,069 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions for a league-best 109.87 quarterback rating and also ranks 10th in rushing with 417 yards and eight touchdowns.
Strauss (6-0, 175) is a three-year starter at safety as well and has two interceptions this season, while also ranking second in the league with a 16.9-yard punt return average and averaging 36.7 yards per punt for the Lions.
“He’s got to show up every night,” Lawrence coach Dirk Wedd said. “We’ve surrounded him with some good players, but Brad does so many things and he’s done it for three years now. You start relying on that, so he has to have a big game every night for us to win. He’s that important for us, especially on offense.”
Strauss received universal acclaim last season, making first team All-Sunflower League on both sides of the ball and landing on every all-state list as well as The Star’s All-Metro first team.
He gets a lion’s share of the credit for the Lions’ success, but Strauss’ teammates don’t seem to mind.
“We’re really lucky to have him as a quarterback,” senior wide receiver Drake Hofer said. “I can’t even imagine our team without him, but the best thing is that he’s one of the most humble kids you’ll meet. It’s rare to find a player that great and also that humble, but he does it all – special teams, defense and offense – and he never complains or toots his own horn.”
Truly, the fanfare doesn’t matter to Strauss, who moved to Lawrence from Utah in seventh grade but still has a deep appreciation for the program’s storied history.
When Strauss was a junior high freshman in 2009, Lawrence’s glory days – including 41 seasons with at least eight victories since 1910 – seemed like ancient history.
The Lions had won eight games in the previous three seasons, including bottoming out at 1-8 three years ago and needing a 13-6 win against Leavenworth in a season finale between winless teams just to get there.
But led by Strauss, the Lions, who are 4-1 and in first place in the Sunflower League, have turned things around again and are restoring the roar.
“We had struggled the previous year and we weren’t great as sophomores, but we learned a lot,” Strauss said. “We have a lot of seniors who played as sophomores, so we’ve got a lot of guys with playing experience in tight games against good teams.”
Lawrence improved to 4-5 that first year with Strauss at quarterback and went 6-4 last season, including two losses to eventual Kansas 6A state champion Olathe South – defeats the Lions avenged with a 34-27 win last week.
That first-round playoff loss against the Falcons a year ago was particularly painful for Strauss and his teammates, who understand that success for the Lions isn’t measured by merely making the postseason.
“Obviously, this school is built on state championships,” Strauss said. “That’s where we want it to be when we leave. That’s the only way to fully restore the roar.”
Ultimately, Strauss wants that – and not a long trail of accolades and plaudits in print accounts of his exploits on Friday nights – to define his career at Lawrence.
“We have a lot of guys who want to win a state championship to get this school back where it needs to be,” Strauss said. “That’s all we’re thinking about. We’re not thinking about a league title. We win state championships here.”
If the Lions are going to get there again (and once more have a reason to puff out those chests), it’s going to be in large part because of Strauss.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to <a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.