Paul Condry and Matt Kopsea
Joey Tanona has gotten used to being the center of attention.
The 6-foot-6, 275-pound junior lineman made the most of his opportunities at the left tackle slot a year ago by helping pave the way for Zionsville to accumulate more than 4,000 yards of offense and claim a Class 6A sectional crown in the process.
Making the move to the middle of the front line has proven to be just as beneficial for Tanona and the Eagles (4-5) as they rolled up more than 2,500 total yards during the 2020 regular campaign.
"The transition hasn't been too crazy," explained Tanona. "In the beginning, there were a lot of curves, but now I am used to it."
His main priority right now is getting his club ready for their Class 5A Sectional 12 semifinal home contest with defending champion Harrison (West Lafayette) (6-3) on October 30.
Having had the opportunity to learn some tricks of the trade from a variety of people has also been a huge boost for him.
"I've learned everything from coaches past and present as well as players past and present," Tanona said. "I think (current Purdue freshman lineman) Gus Hartwig is really a player from the past who taught me how to properly prepare for games.
"I would say my dad (Joe) has been another huge influence on me because he was the exact same way when he played and I carry his demeanor with me."
Entering his second season at the controls, Zionsville's Scott Turnquist is thankful to have a huge presence like Tanona anchoring the front line and helping pave the way for his "Spread" offensive attack.
"Joey has a high football IQ and absorbs information easily and quickly," Turnquist said. "The sky is the limit because he is still developing his strength levels in the weight room. He is a soft spoken young man who loves to play aggressive on the field and let his actions speak for themselves."
In addition to being a standout on the field, Tanona also currently owns a 3.4 grade-point average in the classroom.
"I would say I just wanna be the best I possibly can be and everything I do I try to do it to the best of my ability," Tanona said. "I've learned how to properly manage my time and to be careful. During this current pandemic, I've also limited the places I go and of course, to always wear a mask."
However, his success is not just limited to the gridiron.
He has also become a top performer for the track and field squad as a shot putter and discus thrower.
During his freshman year, he finished second in the shot put in the 2019 Avon Sectional and placed ninth in the Lafayette Jeff Regional.
"I see benefits from throwing in the spring and transferring that into football," Tanona explained. "It's not really a challenge because I think throwing in the spring really helps me with my quickness and footwork in the fall."
His ability to make adjustments and provide protection allowed him to get plenty of attention from college programs around the country, including LSU (Louisiana State University), Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska, Indiana, and Purdue.
Although he still has another campaign to improve and fine tune his craft, he decided this past July to commit to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame starting in the fall of 2022.
"I really think that it was such an easy decision because it just felt like home and it's close to home," Tanona said. "I also think the coaching staff at Notre Dame puts me in the best position to succeed in the future."