Ness City's VonLehe is 'standing out'
By KLINT SPILLER
The VonLehe family must have a giant beanstalk sprouting from its backyard.
After all, it's rare when a 6-foot-1, 195-pound boy is considered the runt of the family, but that's the case for senior Tucker VonLehe, an offensive and defensive lineman for the Ness City High School football team.
VonLehe is the youngest and shortest sibling in a family of giants, and he is painfully aware of it.
Though he is the second biggest player on his football team, he is the shortest male at the dinner table.
He has three siblings all within five years of each other. The eldest, Levi, is 6-6. The middle brother, Drew, is 6-4, and his older sister, Candee, is 6-1.
His father, Jim, is 6-4. The only person Tucker is taller than is his mother, Sheila, who is just 5-9.
"It really bothers him," Sheila said. "He says, 'I'm going to be the runt of the family,' and I'm like, 'You don't know that yet. You might not be done growing.' But as time has passed, I think he is about done growing."
Sheila said Tucker has looked up to Levi since he was young. Levi was naturally talented and blessed with size, and as a result, it made Tucker work even harder to match him.
"I think Tucker is every bit as good and maybe even better (than Levi)," Sheila said, "because he is much more determined because he had to work for it. But I don't think (Tucker) sees it that way."
From an early age, Tucker said he was forced to learn how to overcome size to take down larger opponents.
"Growing up I've always wanted to beat my older brothers since they've had size and everything on me," Tucker said. "No matter what the size somebody is, I've tried to train myself to take down anybody at any time at any size."
It's translated to the field.
He anchors an offensive line that has plowed a path for the Eagles backs to average 7.34 yards per carry and 263.8 yards per game.
On defense, Tucker plays as a defensive end opposite to senior Blake McVicker. Tucker has posted 50 tackles, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and 4.5 sacks this season -- the second-most sacks on the team.
"Tucker, like all of our offensive linemen, is a quick kid," Ness City head coach Chris Bamberger said. "He moves well. He is technically sound. His fundamentals are good, and he's got some strength with him, too. You put that all together, and he's done a really good job."
Genetics have played a significant factor in the size of the VonLehe family. Many members of Tucker's father's side towers above 6-feet tall.
However, raising their own meat on the family farm helps, Sheila said.
"It takes quite a feast to feed them all," she said.
Tucker might be done growing, but he's not done trying to get bigger.
"I try to hit the weight room as much as possible and get bigger so I can get better on the field," he said.
Tucker said it's not just his siblings' size that he wishes he had. Levi is ambidextrous, so ever since Tucker was little, Tucker has trained his left hand to be as good as his right hand.
"It definitely (helps), because then other teams can't look at you and say he likes to spin to the right or he likes to spin to the left," Tucker said. "You can go either way. You are a double threat."
Though Tucker wishes he had his brothers' size, Sheila is quick to point out the advantages of being 6-1, namely buying clothes.
"I remind Tucker that it's not a curse, but he thinks it is," Sheila said.
According to Sheila, Tucker is Tucker's biggest critic.
He is never satisfied, and it's forced him to continuously work to improve.
"I always believe there is no perfect player," Tucker said. "You can always get better. I'm definitely not perfect. I wish I was a lot bigger."
So in a way, being the runt in a family of giants has been a blessing for Tucker.