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Thursday, December 13, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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State Player of the Year | His work started early, ended late

Special to The Seattle Times

Fogerson file

Height, weight: 6 feet 2, 202

Class: Senior

Pos: Running back and safety

Stat sheet: Led Seattle area with 2,545 rushing yards, 36 TDs. Averaged 11 yards per carry.

Age: 18

Hometown: Kent

School: O'Dea

College: Verbal commitment to Washington

Family ties: Mother, Monique Avery, is a Seattle Police officer and former prep track star. Father, Chris Fogerson, was a basketball star at Garfield. Younger brother, Zach, started at fullback as sophomore for O'Dea.

On-the-field nickname: "Knock Knock" (for his big hits on defense)

Preferred pregame meal: Homemade waffles, eggs and sausage

Favorite flick: "Evan Almighty"

Fun fact: He took yoga classes this season to improve focus and flexibility

Joshua Mayers

Warm Sunday mornings in July are a time when most high-school students sleep in, enjoying the liberty of summer vacation.

Not Johri Fogerson. For the O'Dea captain, it's time to work.

He wakes up his younger brother, Zach, and the two drive to Rattlesnake Ridge near North Bend. The four agonizing miles of steep hills and winding turns at over 1,000 feet of elevation became a gut-busting routine.

"I put in a lot of work up there," said Johri, who ran the course almost every Sunday leading into football season.

Fogerson, a 6-foot-2, 202-pound running back/safety, isn't averse to the pain and the sweat. If it isn't Rattlesnake Ridge, it's a set of 300 stairs, or running the steep streets of downtown Seattle a few blocks from the Catholic all-boys school on First Hill.

"Not once has he taken training and working out as seriously as he did this summer," said Fogerson's mother, Monique Avery.

The hours of conditioning paid off. Fogerson stayed healthy through 3 ½ grueling months and carried his team into the Class 3A state-championship game.

Fogerson's head-turning statistics — a Seattle-area best 2,545 rushing yards, 36 touchdowns — capped by a record-breaking performance in a 42-35 loss to Skyline in the 3A final, have made him the 2007 Seattle Times' State Player of the Year for high-school football.

"He had an outstanding season on both sides of the ball and as a leader," said O'Dea coach Monte Kohler. "He was determined to make this a special year. We haven't totaled up all the records yet, but his will surely be one of the best seasons this school has seen."

The shifty running back and hard-hitting safety doesn't have extraordinary speed. Or strength. Or leaping ability. He rates only two stars on most recruiting Web sites.

But coaches, teammates and family members all agree: Fogerson's work ethic separates him from the rest.

"It's his desire, his heart," said teammate Ed Pelzer, a senior lineman. "He works harder than anybody on the field. It allows him to always perform at the best of his abilities."

Fogerson's best landed him numerous scholarship offers from colleges across the country. Despite interest from national powers like Ohio State and Virginia Tech, he elected instead to stay home and play for the Washington Huskies next season.

"It was all about family and the fact that I couldn't be so far away," said Fogerson, who gave a verbal commitment to Ohio State before switching to Washington last Thursday.

Avery, a UW alumnus, said her son's commitment to her alma mater "was the best Christmas present I could've imagined."

Fogerson's uncle, Ron "Cookie Jackson, and cousin Nate Robinson also played football for the Huskies. His father, Chris Fogerson, is a former Seattle-area basketball standout who played for Garfield in the mid-1980s.

"Sometimes when people watch him [Johri], they tell me it's like looking at old high-school film of when I was playing," said Chris Fogerson, who was a 1986 Star Times all-area pick for basketball.

For the Irish basketball team, the defending state champions, Fogerson averages more than 11 points. He also plans to compete in track and field this spring as a sprinter and a jumper. The senior will have played a sport every season of his high-school career: four years of football, basketball and track.

But Fogerson left his most indelible mark in football.

"I have never been on a team like this," he said. "Without all of them, I couldn't have the year I had."

That cuts both ways.

"We're definitely going to miss him," Kohler said. "Not only will he have a legacy here, but he really showed the guys how to work hard."

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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