EL DORADO — Drew Bones donned his Ottawa Cyclone football helmet one last time. For his high school coach, Rob Hedrick, Bones’ attitude throughout the week of festivities, including the 44th Annual Kansas Shrine Bowl game, was everything he came to expect from the athletic lineman.

Bones and Hedrick were selected for the Shrine Bowl in January, and on Saturday both were on the field along with the 2016 state’s top prep football players and coaches for the all-star game at Butler County Community College in El Dorado. Bones played on the offensive line, and Hedrick coached the O-line for the East team.

“[Drew] represented our community so well with how we carried himself,” Hedrick said. “He was everything you’d want in someone representing you.”

The week was filled with Shrine Bowl traditions including a banquet, parade and the “Hospital Experience” where players and coaches met patients from Shriners Hospital for Children. On top of that, coaches and players prepped in two-a-day practices leading up to Saturday night’s game.

“It was just such a great experience,” Hedrick said. “First of all, the honor of getting picked is great. It’s a grind, but it’s fun. The Shriners have so many things for you to do. The most impressive thing and the most important part of the week was meeting the kids, the patient ambassadors. You get to meet them and their families, and they talk about how the Shriners Hospital has taken care of them. That was a great experience.”

Bones said the traditions opened his eyes to what Shriners Hospital does. Outside of Saturday's game, Bones said he also made a number of ball friends who are similarly off to play at the collegiate level.

 "The game itself was really awesome," Bones said. "They counted on me, and trusted me, so I knew I could help them out playing right tackle the whole time."
 

In the end, the East team narrowly lost 22-21 to West on a last-minute safety forced on a botched quarterback-center exchange. Bones, however, anchored an offensive line that paved the way for 170 rushing yards on 38 carries (a nearly 4.5 yard-per-carry average) for the East squad. He was one of the best players on the field, Hedrick said.

“It was fun to watch him do his thing,” he said. “He was almost elected captain. He never came out of the game. We had two offensive linemen who never came out of the game, and we rotated everybody else in. Drew was just so good, we just didn’t feel like we could take him out of the game. That was a proud moment.”

All week in practice, Bones went toe-to-toe against Kansas State defensive line signee Wyatt Hubert, Shawnee Heights, Hedrick said.

“To watch those two go at in practice was just a blast,” he said. “Drew did very well against him.”

Now Bones is back in Normal, Illinois, for the Illinois State University fall football camp. Bones officially signed to play on the offensive line for the Redbirds in February.

Hedrick will prep for the upcoming Cyclone football season, and said he will never forget the experiences of the past week.

“The bonds you build with the kids and the other coaches, that was my favorite part,” he said. “I really am looking forward to watching the kids in their college careers, and seeing how they do. The coaches, I have six new lifelong friends now. It was like a week-long coaches clinic. You pick up so many new things.”