CHARLESTON - Take one look at Ashton Farmer and it doesn't take a sports enthusiast to know that he is an athlete.
At a strapping 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, Farmer has a big-time look. But the look isn't all he has.
He also has ability as he dominated the area in football and basketball and played a vital role on a state placing relay team in track and field for the Charleston Bluejays.
His performances made him our choice for the 2004-2005 Standard Democrat Male Athlete of the Year.
He helped lead a young Bluejay team to its best season since 2001 as they finished 8-3 with a district championship.
"He was a key ingredient for what we did," said Charleston football coach Brent Anderson, who resigned his position this year. "He had a good season and you can attribute a lot of our success to Ashton. He was a co-captain and assumed a leadership role for us."
In basketball, Farmer was the headliner coming into the season and he lived up to his lofty status as he received first team all-state after making the second team the previous two seasons.
Farmer led the Bluejays to a 22-10 mark and a second-place finish in Class 3. He averaged 19.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. In his career, Farmer had two third place state finishes as well.
And in track and field, Farmer was the lead leg on the Bluejays' fourth place 4 x 400 meter relay team at the Class 2 State Track and Field Championships.
"He played a great part on that relay team," said coach Farmer. "He loves to run relays and his goal was to win state in that 4 x 400 relay. We improved and came close. When the other kids see Ashton come out and run hard, the other kids will start to work hard too."
Ashton said track and field was something he decided to do to further enhance his progress in other sports.
He ran track as a freshman and sophomore, but didn't his junior year as he played AAU basketball.
"That's a sport that I played to stay in shape and not get lazy," he said. "It helped me with my speed and jumping ability so I went out and ran track. It really came natural to me."
As a sophomore, Ashton was a member of the Bluejays' state placing 4 x 200 and 4 x 400 meter relay teams.
Farmer has signed to play basketball at Arkansas State University. He chose the Indians over Rice, Kansas State, Ole Miss, SEMO, Tennessee-Martin and Marquette among others.
But he also had some looks in football as well.
"I had a lot of big-time offers -- Notre Dame, Nebraska, Mizzou --
all of them were on me hard," said Farmer. "I just decided that if I go to college and play a sport, I'd rather be in the gym playing basketball. I really work hard in basketball."
Ashton said basketball has always been his first love, but he enjoyed his time in football and track as well.
He played football in the eighth grade but took a couple years off until Anderson convinced him to give the gridiron another try.
"I was talking to coach Anderson in the summer time when I was lifting weights and he was just telling me how good my body looked and how good my hands were," said Ashton. "And he just told me I'd be a great wide receiver. He compared me to some guys in the NFL like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens and that just really encouraged me to go out and play. I had so much fun and success as a junior so I came out my senior year."
But he didn't just take up space on the field. He was the team's top receiver. And his improvement from his junior to senior year was substantial.
"He just became one of those guys that got in the weight room and did what he had to do to get stronger and faster," said Anderson. "He made big strides in two years in all phases of the game."
On the court, Ashton was pegged as a star in the making early on. He started on the varsity as a thin, 6-5 freshman and saw first-hand how competitive and physical basketball can be in the area against players such as Sikeston all-state forward Lontas McClinton and New Madrid County Central all-state guard Dereke Tipler.
"My freshman year I was just straight up and down and skinny," said Farmer. "I remember battling with Lontas and all those big guys and they just overpowered me. So I just told myself that I had to put on some weight. That just helped my game even more. Also playing AAU basketball with the St. Louis Eagles and you see out there that only the strong survive. So I just ate right and lifted weights and tried to get bigger."
Farmer's dedication in the weight room paid off with steady improvement all the way to his senior year, where he was the lone senior starter on the Bluejays' team.
"My dad told me I needed to come out and play harder than I had in the past," said Ashton. "In the past I just used my athletic ability to get by. But after all those seniors graduated, he said I needed to step up and be a leader. My attitude changed, I had a more positive attitude on the court and in practice. I just came out and played every game."
Despite constant double- and triple-teams, Farmer was consistent and unselfish.
"He would utilize his teammates," said coach Farmer. "When he was triple-
teamed, instead of trying to force the issue, he would pass the ball off to the younger kids. He understood that going into the season he would be double- and triple-teamed, so he knew that he had to play a supporting role on some nights instead of being the big scorer."
Many people view Ashton as an athlete that had everything come natural. But he said his speed, strength and leaping ability all came with hard work.
"I work out and exercise every day," said Ashton. "I work at the swimming pool so I go swimming and get some good exercise there."
He said, at a Mizzou football camp last summer, they measured his vertical leap at 33 inches and timed him at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash -- impressive numbers, especially for one that was 6-6, 215 pounds at the time.
He said it all started when his dad got him on the jump soles, or what is commonly called, "strength shoes."
"Every summer my dad and I work out with jump soles --
it makes you jump higher and run faster," said Ashton. "My eighth to ninth grade year is when I first started using them. My vertical probably went up nine inches or so and then I was able to dunk, and that gives you a lot of confidence as it is. And then I just started working on everything else.
"I think my knowledge of the game I inherited from my dad. We just sit at home and talk about basketball every day, after and before the game. We watch a lot of ball on TV. I just pick up skills that I see and try to practice it and get to where I can do it in games."
After playing center the past couple seasons in high school, Ashton said he will probably play the small forward position in college, so lately he's been working on skills that will better suit his new position, in particular ball-
handling and perimeter shooting.
And to make things even better, he will be teaming up with a former high school teammate, Kewain Gant, who has spent the past two years at Moberly Junior College and Tipler, who will be a senior with the team.
"I'm ready to team back up with Kewain because that was our first run at state when I was a sophomore," said Ashton. "He taught me a lot and showed me a lot of leadership. I never got a chance to play with Dereke, but I played against him my freshman year. He's a competitor and he knows how to win. I want some of that to rub off on me."
And what about football? Any chance of strapping on the pads again?
"Maybe my fifth year," he said. "We'll just see how far basketball takes me first. I still have a lot of love for the game of football."