Osborne big part of Locos success

Story And Photo By Joe Kusek
Thursday, November 4, 2021
Senior Shel Osborne has been a four-year starter for the Laurel football team.

Senior Shel Osborne has been a four-year starter for the Laurel football team.

As the final seconds ticked down, Shel Osborne started celebrating.

The Laurel football team was just one more play from winning the Class A state championship over heated rival Billings Central.

But his celebration would be short-lived.

Wanting to share the big moment, Osborne was yelling to the sideline for the coaches to put teammate Aden Winder in the game.

Sharing is part of Osborne’s fiber.

Well-liked by all, Osborne is known for helping others.

“I’m fortunate. I have parents who have good jobs. I feel a responsibility to give back,” Osborne said.

Osborne kept motioning to the sideline but to no avail.

The Rams sent a ball carrier toward Osborne.

“I was not focused,” remembered Osborne. “I tackled the guy way too high. My heel got caught back in the turf.

“I felt my knee pop.” In the waning seconds of the 2020 season, Osborne suffered a torn ACL.

He celebrated with mixed emotions.

“Conflicted,” Osborne said of his feelings. “I was emotional because I knew what happened and what was ahead of me.”

Osborne had surgery on Dec. 1, forcing him to miss the basketball and track seasons. He went through seven months of rehabilitation before being cleared to play this fall.

Now Osborne is writing final chapter on one the more stellar careers in recent Laurel football history.

“He’s a special player,” said Locomotive head coach Mike Ludwig. “In my 20 years here, he’s definitely one of the top players we’ve had come through the program.

“Shel, he’s a kid you can always count on. I text or call him and tell him I need something and he’s there. He always does the extra work.”

The likable Osborne has been a four-year starter on defense for Laurel and a three-year starter on offense as a left guard.

So respected, Osborne wears No. 51, a legacy number in the program.

He is one of only four players – Johnny Perrigo, Waylon Robertus and Sean Condon are the others – to wear the number since the program began by former defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil.

“We hold that jersey in high esteem,” said Ludwig. “It goes to somebody who is a good player and a good human being. Who always puts the team above himself, no matter what.”

Condon wore it last in 2009. The jersey was brought back for Osborne in 2019.

Osborne was given the jersey as a sophomore.

“You’ve got to wear it with pride,” he said. “You have to make sure you are doing the right thing all the time, on and off the field.”

So special, Ludwig wasn’t sure who would be next to wear No. 51.

“It might sit in the closet again,” he said.

The 5-11, 215-pound Osborne is more than a football player. He is the definition of studentathlete.

A top student, “Not sure about that, I think I got a B in calculus,” Osborne offered with a smile, he also helped organize a clothing drive for Big Brothers and Big Sisters last year and is part of a team that helps fresh men transition to high school.

So successful was the clothing drive, the clothes filled the bed and cab of his pickup truck. He is also part of a school organization that helps incoming freshmen make the transition into high school.

“People at other schools probably wouldn’t think I’m such a nice guy,” he said with a grin.

He was also selected the 2022 Daughters of the American Revolution award winner by school staff and faculty.

And oh yeah, Osborne was also voted Homecoming king this fall.

“He’s well-rounded and treats everyone well,” said Ludwig. “He’s not afraid to put himself out there and try new things.

“Shel is one of those kids you know will be successful no matter what he does.”

And Osborne has been successful on the football field.

He has helped the Locomotives reach the semifinals (2018), finish second (2019) and win a state championship (2020) the past three seasons.

Laurel is unbeaten this year entering the Class A playoffs after earning their first Eastern A title since 1999. The Locomotives will play Frenchtown at home on Saturday.

With the ability to see the play before it develops, the middle linebacker is always around the ball.

“I like the game planning,” Osborne said. “I watch a lot of film. Most of the time I know what is coming.”

That play-making is also a by-product of four varsity seasons.

“It’s just his experience,” said Ludwig. “He’s played a lot of football games. He knows how to read linemen.

“Shel is not afraid to get in there. And once he gets in there, he makes you pay.”

Osborne makes plays despite receiving extra attention from blockers.

“I usually get an offensive lineman and then a running back,” he said of those trying to get in his way. “You just have to work to get off the block.”

Osborne does admit his freshman year got off to an auspicious start. He was injured in the first froshmore game of the season in 2018 and didn’t return to the field late in the regular season.

His welcome to the varsity moment was provided by Billings Central.

“It was on the kickoff and I approached the blocking wedge,” Osborne recalled. “I thought, ‘I can get through those two guys.’

“They picked me up by the shoulders and drove me in the ground.”

And while not into material gifts, Osborne spotted something on the fall schedule that caught his eye.

“My birthday is the day before the state championship,” he said. “That would be a good birthday present.”


What are you more likely to buy your valentine this year?

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