By Gary Kalahar
Photo By Ryan Kerwin
Khol Partridge thinks big. But no detail is too small for the Columbia Central High School senior.
Partridge, in his third season as the Golden Eagles’ quarterback, has an interest in space that at one time had him considering a career with NASA.
“I study it all the time,” Partridge said. “I’ve always had an open mind, thinking about that stuff, getting into deep thought with space in general. I’ve always been amazed by it.”
When it’s time to focus on what’s in front of him, though, Partridge is very down to earth. Whether he’s studying for school or dissecting football plays, his attention to detail has put him on a path to achievement in high school and presumably far beyond. It’s no accident that Partridge wants to model his game after detail-oriented New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“I’ve looked up to him since I’ve been old enough to watch TV and understand it,” Partridge said. “I’ve ready his book ‘TB12’ twice. He’s the best.”
Partridge is going to rank as one of the best quarterbacks Columbia Central has ever seen. Two games into his senior season, he needs just 138 yards to set the school record for career passing yards. More importantly, he has quarterbacked teams that have gone 7-3 and 7-4 the last two seasons. Off to a 2-0 start this season, Columbia Central is aiming for a fourth straight winning record, a streak accomplished just once previously in school history (1976-84).
Partridge is anything but shy about his leadership role.
“Ever since fourth grade, I’ve wanted to be that guy to step up and lead the team,” he said. “I’ve always wanted it really bad. I feel like my teammates look up to me. I want to be a leader, and I do feel like they get behind me.”
Columbia Central coach Josh Kubiak says Partridge has all the intangibles of a great leader.
“He’s intelligent. He’s a social person. He’s very positive,” Kubiak said. “Everything he does is positive leadership. You couldn’t ask for a better kid to be in charge.”
Kubiak saw that at the end of Partridge’s sophomore season, when the Golden Eagles lost in the first round of the playoffs. After that game, Partridge consoled the seniors, then immediately turned to the juniors and sophomores and exhorted them to make the next season better.
“He knows what needs to be done,” Kubiak said.
Partridge’s leadership isn’t just talk. He is regularly on the practice field early working on his skills.
“When the other kids see that, that makes them want to get out there and start doing drills, too,” Kubiak said.
Partridge passed for 1,026 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 537 yards and six scores as a sophomore. Last year, he threw for 1,518 yards and 13 touchdowns with 584 yards and another 11 TDs on the ground as Columbia Central earned the first playoff victory in school history before losing in the second round.
To get ready for his senior season, Partridge attended several camps, endured strenuous workouts (more on that later) and spent hours watching game replays after – here’s that attention to detail – learning what to look for.
“I’ve watched videos and went to camps where they taught me how to watch film right,” he said.
In two victories this season, Partridge has passed for 327 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 159 yards and three scores. The Golden Eagles host Ida on Friday to launch the Lenawee County Athletic Association schedule, aiming for their first league title since 1981.
“We’re 2-0, but we’re definitely not playing to our full potential,” Partridge said. “We need to be in a better spot than we are now, and I’m going to make sure that happens. I have a lot of confidence when I step on the football field, and that’s what I’m trying to give my team. If you have confidence, you can play really well.”
That confidence is built on experience and maturity that Kubiak says makes Partridge essentially a coach on the field.
“He’s telling kids where to go, what to look for, he audibles a lot of routes when he reads the defense,” Kubiak said. “His game experience and his maturity is huge for us. We are able to do more things. Our offense has tons of formations, where when he was a sophomore, we maybe only had two or three. You name it, we can line up in it and Khol can adjust the kids where to go.”
Partridge also credits mixed martial arts – taught by his father, Rodney, who owns an MMA school – with building his confidence and his stamina. While he didn’t compete last summer, he went through his dad’s MMA training.
“He gets me in the best shape,” said Partridge, listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds. “Not only keeping in shape, but MMA really makes you more of an athlete – balance, hand-eye coordination, confidence. MMA brings you a lot of confidence into sports and into life.”
Football is far from Partridge’s only focus. He is also a top basketball and baseball player for the Golden Eagles, earning first-team all-state in baseball last spring when he hit .458 with 34 RBIs.
“I love sports, I love all of them, and I’m going to play them as much as I can until it’s over,” he said.
That’s music to the ears of Kubiak as Columbia Central’s athletic director.
“They’re a dying breed. We don’t have too many three-sport athletes,” he said. “It’s nice to have kids play three sports, and as the football coach, it makes it easier, because he’s used to competing all year long. Being a competitor is being a competitor, no matter what sport.”
Partridge hopes to ride his 3.85 grade-point average and athletic skills onto a college roster, aiming to play both football and baseball at the Div. I level while studying energy engineering. He has drawn interest from prestigious schools in the East, including Princeton, Columbia, Bucknell and Lehigh.
“Those are good schools,” Partridge said. “You get out of there, you’re set.”
Sounds like someone who’s thinking big.