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Jonathan Lay epitomizes “student-athlete”

Jonathan Lay, right, is expected to be a leader among the Riverdale offensive line. Last season, the all-county lineman graded out at 92 percent each game.

Jonathan Lay, right, is expected to be a leader among the Riverdale offensive line. Last season, the all-county lineman graded out at 92 percent each game.

RIVERDALE — As Riverdale offensive lineman Jonathan Lay enters into his senior year, he has two competitors to worry about — the ones on the football field and those in the classroom.

Not only is Lay a presence on the Raiders’ team, he is also in the running for school valedictorian. He currently has a 4.1 grade-point average and is ranked second in his class.

“That’s a great feeling to have and that keeps me motivated to get better,” Lay said. “It helps me stay competitive because I have guys that are competing for my spot on the field and peers who want my class ranking off the field.”

During an injury-riddled season for the Raiders last year, Lay proved to be able to rise above adversity and perform at a high level. Lay was named to the first-team All Region 4-AAAA squad, and was all-county offense at tackle.

He also attended a few lineman camps where he won the MVP award. Though Riverdale struggled to a 4-6 record, head coach Terry Herrod knew he had a quality player he could count on moving forward.

“When you talk about Jonathan Lay, he’s one of the best people I have ever been around as a coach and educator,” he said. “Academically and athletically he is a model young man and a blessing to have on the team.”

As far as being one of the most well-rounded athletes in Clayton County, Lay feels that performing in the classroom and athletically is something every high school athlete should strive for in order to be better leaders and people. His attitude, grades and strong play have attracted the attention of some of the nation’s top schools.

He currently has an offer from VMI and has interest from Princeton, Harvard and Penn. He hopes to major in architecture and is most likely looking to commit sometime after the season.

With his recruitment to wait until season’s end, Lay is focused on helping Riverdale achieve their goal of making it back to the state playoffs.

“We’ve gotten a lot better this summer, a lot of guys getting stronger and faster,” he said. “Coach Herrod is getting more comfortable with us and us with him, so we’ll have a great season.”

As he is about to enter his final season in a Raider uniform, Lay wants those to look back on his days and remember him as a person overall — not just a player.

“When people look at me, I want to think about hard work, dedication and committing to excellence on the field and in the classroom and community,” he said.