Van Ring doesn’t know what’s next for him after high school. He’s not in a rush to make that decision.

“I don’t think I’m going to continue on in sports,” he said. “I enjoy football and it’s going to be weird when it’s gone.”

Harleton’s senior linebacker has played the game for a large majority of his life.

“Since I was a little, little kid, like since I was old enough to step on a football field, I’ve been playing football,” he said. “My first year playing football, I was the center. I was the smallest kid on the team and I was the center. I always got my stuff blown up. I always got thrown on my butt. It was fun though.”

The game has taught Ring valuable life lessons that go far beyond Xs and Os.

“In football you build friendship that become family,” he said. “Anytime I get myself into situations, I can always call my teammates and they’ll be there. You can’t do everything by yourself. Even if you don’t want to, sometimes you have to rely on others to help you through stuff.”

Some lessons he has had to learn the hard way.

“Don’t waste time,” Ring said when asked what he knows now that he wishes he knew as a freshman. “I was like, ‘Oh I’ve still got three years until I’m graduated’ but now I realize I just messed around and didn’t really try. That can kind of screw you up sometimes. Just live in the moment more than I did. When I was a freshman, I was like, ‘Man, I can’t wait to be graduated, this and that, but now looking back, I’m like, ‘Man, I’m going to miss it.’”

In the meantime though, he plans to make the most of his high school football career while he still can.

“This year, we’re a lot smarter on the O-line,” Ring said of his team in comparison with last year’s squad. “We’re a lot quicker all around. The O-line is super smart. They know what they’re doing and they get it done. On defense, we’ve got some good speed all around. We returned everybody in the box except the seniors and we still have experienced linebackers and D-line so that helps out and we’ve got quick corners. We’ve got speed all the way around the field and smartness is a big thing.

“I’m quicker,” he added. “I know what’s coming because I’ve been running this position since I started varsity football. I know the game at linebacker and it helps me with my reads and to hustle on the field.”

“He’s a good solid player,” Harleton athletic director and head football coach Kyle Little said of Ring. “He’s been on varsity since he was as sophomore. He’s a tough, hard-nosed kid. He always finds himself around the football. Every week we go back and watch film and he’s got a lot of tackles. He’s smart. Like I said, he’s a three-year starter on varsity so now it’s like second nature to him. He’s very instinctual. He’s a good, tough kid.

“He’s different because when he’s in the locker room, he’s fun and plays around but when he gets on the field, he’s very intense,” Little added. “He really doesn’t say a lot. He’s more of a lead-by-example type of guy but the kids know he works and they know he’s going to bring it every play.”

During his senior year, Ring is wearing No. 2 to carry on a family tradition that his brother Cole, who graduated last year, started and perhaps it will continue with Draven, the third brother who’s currently a sophomore.

It’s funny, we talk about it all the time — they’re all three very different,” Little said of the Ring brothers. “They all have different characteristics and each is his own person, which is a good thing. They’re all three different people and all three good football players so that’s good for us.”

Ring and his Wildcats are coming off their first win of the season with a 1-2 record as they prepare for their final non-district game tonight on the road against Harmony.

“They’ve got some big boys at Harmony,” Ring said. “Quick reads, be faster than them, get good blocks on the O-line. Get low on tackles, finish all the way through and put your heart out on the field.”

“They run the same offense we do,” Little said of the Eagles. “It’s a ball-controlled offense and we have to stop them on first and second down and try to get them on third-and-long situations. We need to keep them on the sideline. We need to do the ball control. We need to keep the ball and go long plays. The thing I’ve been preaching to the kids is just playing clean. We keep having mistakes, turnovers, penalties and things like that. We can’t beat a team like Harmony if we don’t play mistake-free football. We have to execute at a high level.”

Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. tonight at Harmony’s Eagle Stadium.

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