RCHS salutatorian a renowned scholar-athlete

posted on May 18, 2012

Tyrell O’Donnell, who will step into the role of class salutatorian at the high school commencement ceremonies this weekend, has chalked up a number of impressive accomplishments during his high school career.

Perhaps most noteworthy of his extra-curricular achievements was being selected as one of the five finalists for the South Dakota class 11B football player of the year. These individuals were named after having been voted on by all of the coaches within the playing class.

This honor is but one in a long line of awards that O’Donnell has received over the years. An accomplished athlete, he lettered in both football and wrestling for all four of his high school years.

At the end of his ninth grade year, O’Donnell was named most outstanding freshman in a survey of his teachers. His sophomore year, he received the Red Cloud football team’s “most heart” award. That year, he was also named as a first team linebacker for the All Nations Conference, and was an honorable mention for the West River Conference.

O’Donnell’s junior and senior years brought yet more accolades. He was Red Cloud football’s Most Valuable Player in 2010, in addition to being chosen as a first team linebacker for the West River Conference. The next year, he was named as MVP once again.

At the reservation-wide awards banquet held earlier this month, O’Donnell was given the overall high school award for athletics. At Red Cloud’s spring awards ceremony, he received an Academic West River All-Conference Award, a Black Hills Conference Outstanding Student-Athlete Award, a letter for outstanding academics, a President’s Excellence Award, and departmental awards from both the English and Lakota studies departments for top performance.

As per Red Cloud tradition, O’Donnell was chosen as class salutatorian for having the second-highest overall grade point average out of his class.

When asked to describe O’Donnell’s accomplishments, math teacher and football/wrestling coach Clay Leonard was effusive in his praise:

"Tyrell is a wonderful student and athlete. He was a great leader of Red Cloud's football team and wrestling team. He was supportive to everyone and knew when to get on someone about working their best. He was wonderful to coach. He would listen to you and give input, but ultimately would do what was decided. His dedication to the team was so noteworthy. To have been chosen as a finalist for ‘Player of the Year’ by a vote of coaches shows his hard work is apparent to them, also. To be named along with the other quality football players that we know from the west is quite an accomplishment. The fact that he was also on the top of every honor roll during his senior year shows how complete of a student-athlete that he really is. University of Minnesota is getting a fine addition to their school."

O’Donnell will enter the University of Minnesota in the fall, and plans to major in criminal justice.