Late-blooming Lenny Galaska to play at Otterbein after stellar final season at Aurora

Lenny Galaska, a 2020 Aurora graduate, shares a moment with Aurora athletic trainer Tom Wymer during a game against Copley last year. Galaska plans to continue his academic and football careers at Otterbein University in Westerville.

When Tony Gramm made his commitment, he had this piece of advice for his former teammate.

“It’s your turn,” Lenny Galaska said.

Let’s just say Galaska happily obliged.

Galaska, a 2020 Aurora graduate, decided to continue his academic and football careers at Otterbein University, a private university located in Westerville.

The standout defensive end, who helped the Greenmen reach the Division II state semifinals last fall, plans to major in accounting.

“I chose Otterbein because, when I showed up on campus for the first visit, I visualized myself living there for four years after meeting the coaches and walking around campus,” Galaska said. “Honestly, I never really had interest in other schools as soon as [defensive backs] Coach Jermaine] Berket really made a connection with me about playing at Otterbein.”

One of his good pals did too.

Gramm, who was Aurora’s leading rusher in 2019, also made the choice to play for the Division III school that makes its home in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

“I always knew I was going to go there when we both went down on a visit and talked about it on the car ride home,” Galaska said. “Since we were kids, we have always played on the same football team and as a kid, you have dreams to play football at the higher level and that’s what he and I are going to be able to do together — not on separate teams, but on the same one, which makes it even better.”

The fact that both of these young men are future college football players is an amazing story in itself.

Prior to his senior year, Galaska played a total of one game on the varsity level. And that was because a key starter was injured. Gramm didn’t make much of a dent on the varsity squad until his senior year as well.

“Paying JV [junior varsity] was something I took pride in I guess because it was my way of trying to prove to the coaches that I was trying to better myself to play on those Fridays under the lights,” Galaska said.

It worked out quite well.

Galaska thrived after switching from defensive back to defensive end. Becoming a full-time starter for the first time, Galaska led the team in tackles for loss (14), quarterback hurries (12), sacks (10) and caused fumbles (three). He also recovered two fumbles and finished second on the team with 78 total tackles.

“I played DB my sophomore year and the start of my junior year,” Galaska said. “It just wasn’t the right fit for me. After our first scrimmage my junior year, I remember Coach [Brian] Wervey [who was the Greenmen’s defensive coordinator in 2019] came up to me in the locker room before a practice and said they were going to switch me to play linebacker, which I’m glad he did.

“I eventually got moved to defensive end before my senior year because I was able to put on some weight and get down in the trenches, as we like to call them. Learning to play on the d-line was different then the other positions. It was a slower process, more technique and using my hands, and [defensive line] Coach [Jim] Slagle taught me that technique could beat the size of the lineman across from me.”

Galaska beat quite a few of those linemen.

As a result, Galaska, who also carried the ball 15 times for 118 yards when the Greenmen had the ball, earned first-team All-Suburban League American Conference honors.

“I’m so happy for Lenny,” said Bob Mihalilk, who will enter his 20th year as Aurora’s head coach this fall. “He was chomping at the bit, especially his junior year. He shined on special teams.

“Lenny is one of those guys who kept his mouth quiet. You need guys like him. He’s a good example of how we do things.”

With Galaska terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, the Greenmen had their first undefeated regular season in 21 years. Aurora, which missed the playoffs in 2018 for the first time in 14 years, was just a play or two away from playing in its first state championship game since it won the Division III title in 2008. Mansfield Senior ended the Greenmen’s glorious season with a thrilling 27-21 victory in double overtime.

“Playing for Aurora is indescribable,” Galaska said. “You can feel the support of a whole community behind you as you are on the field. The coaches are not only good coaches, but great men and that’s what their main goal was — to make us become great young men.

“Being able to make a final-four run with my family is something that I will always remember because on Dec. 3rd, 2018, is when our senior season began in the weight room.

“We worked harder than we ever had because we knew people doubted us and we loved it. It fueled us to prove everyone who said we couldn’t be good wrong and that’s exactly what we did.”

If the Greenmen’s success story in 2019 was inspirational, a similar journey by Galaska’s future team would be considered downright miraculous.

The Cardinals, led by ninth-year head coach Tim Doup, finished a modest 2-8 last year. Galaska certainly won’t tolerate such doom and gloom this season. This maniacally competitive teenager detests losing more than anything else.

“My goals at Otterbein are to, of course, be successful in the classroom first and foremost,” Galaska said. “On the field, I want nothing more than to win. I hate losing in anything. I’m competitive and when I lose, I’ll be a good sport, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. That bad taste fuels me to work harder and become better.”

In other words, it was his turn. And now Galaska hopes to take a similar turn against some formidable OAC linemen, who will be more than happy to put him in his place.

“I would never want to call myself a standout because football is the ultimate team sport,” Galaska said. “Without Kevin [Paul] and Toto [Gomez] taking on double teams, AJ [Barner], Jack Mac [McElwee] and James [Austin] filling the right gaps or our DBs, Johnny [Papesh], Evan [McVay], Ben [Rogge], Riley [Gavalier] and Jacob [Matousek], getting to their zones or being able to stick on their man, we wouldn’t have been able to succeed as well as we did.

“I’ve been told I shocked a lot of people, but I don’t really listen to it because I only cared about winning and doing my job to help my teammates.”

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, or @Faceto_Gannett.