by Todd Habiger
ROELAND PARK — Bishop Miege senior quarterback Carter Putz isn’t used to close games. In his three seasons as a starter, the Bishop Miege Stags are 34 and 2 with an average score of 50 to 12.
Yet here he was against archrival St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Overland Park, clinging to a slim 13-7 lead in the third quarter and backed up to his own 2-yard line.
Working from the shotgun, Putz took the snap and immediately looked to his left where he spotted wide receiver Daniel Jackson streaking down the sidelines. Unleashing a bullet, Putz hit Jackson in stride for a 98-yard touchdown.
It was the 93rd touchdown of Putz’s career, a new record for Kansas high school quarterbacks.
Soon, all the Kansas passing records may be his. Putz set the Kansas record for touchdown passes in a season with 50 last year. And he’s closing in on the all-time Kansas record for career passing yardage.
It’s a record he might already have, but Putz rarely plays in the fourth quarter. Sometimes he barely plays the second half.
Like I said, Miege isn’t used to close games.
The Miege factor
A member of St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City, Missouri, Putz has gone to Catholic schools since the third grade. He had no doubts about continuing his Catholic education in high school.
“I wanted a high school that had a good community feel, where people were welcoming and where I could be myself,” he said.
“I knew I wanted to go to a Catholic school,” he added, “so I could grow my relationship with God and become a better Catholic.”
After spending a day shadowing at the school, Miege was an easy choice for Putz.
“I felt that I was able to be myself and express myself,” he said. “Miege felt like home and I felt like I belonged here.
“I couldn’t be happier about my high school career and how I developed as a person.”
At Catholic schools, students are required to put in a certain number of service hours. Putz said that requirement has contributed to his personal growth.
“At first, I didn’t understand the reason but, over time, it’s taught me that we are called to help one another and serve each other, especially those in the most need,” he continued.
One of his favorite service projects is called Exceptionals, a T-Ball league for children with special needs.
“I love sports and being able to help these kids,” he explained.
The program touches him, in particular, because something he takes for granted — being able to participate in sports — is all but denied them.
“When I saw them [play] and the joy it brought them, it really moved me,” he said.
“He’s a great kid,” said Jon Holmes, head football coach at Miege. “If you walk around the school and ask about Carter Putz, no one is going to say anything bad.
“He’s a National Honor Society student. He’s never in trouble. He takes all the Honors AP classes. He always has a smile on his face.”
And most important?
“He always does a great job of helping other people,” said Holmes.
Becoming the guy
Seeing him in the hallways of Miege, you could be forgiven if you didn’t pick Putz out as the most prolific quarterback in Kansas high school history.
“When you look at him he doesn’t kill you with his size,” said Holmes.
His two predecessors at quarterback certainly had the look. Montell Cozart (6 feet 2 inches tall) and Ryan Willis (6 feet 4 inches tall) stood above the crowd and both went on to play NCAA Division I football.
Putz stands at a mere 5 feet 10 inches.
But height isn’t everything. And Putz impressed Holmes even as a freshman.
“He was eager to learn. He always wanted to know what was going on,” Holmes said. “We brought him to team camp in the summer of his freshman year and we could tell right away that he got it.”
As a starter on the freshman team, Putz led the young Stags to an undefeated season. He also suited up for varsity games and got to watch Willis lead Miege to a state championship.
“We had great seniors that year,” Putz said. “Ryan Willis did a great job of showing me the ropes as the quarterback at Miege. You could see that the tradition was there and success was going to come.
“We were lucky enough to have those seniors because they taught us a lot.”
The following season, with Willis graduated, Putz found himself fighting for the starting quarterback job at Miege.
“To even consider him starting as a sophomore was a big compliment to him, because we very rarely look at sophomores to start here,” Holmes said.
Putz was impressive that summer and won the job.
“I was kind of speechless,” he said. “I didn’t know what to say. It felt really good because my hard work had paid off and they thought I was ready to become the leader of the team.”
Despite his decision, Holmes had some anxiety about starting a sophomore.
“Is your team going to agree with you for starting a sophomore?” he said. “Is he going to get hurt? Is he big enough to play? Can he keep up with the speed of the game?”
Holmes didn’t need to worry. Putz went 12-1 as the starter, threw for 3,187 yards, 36 touchdowns, and Miege won its second straight state championship.
“At the level Carter played at during that championship season as a sophomore, you kind of sit back and realize what a special kid he is,” Holmes said.
Putz followed his sophomore campaign with an even more impressive junior season. He threw for 3,264 yards, 50 touchdowns, and Miege won its third straight Class 4A state championship.
He was also named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Kansas.
Faith and family
Whenever he takes the field, Putz has a constant reminder of his strong family ties in the form of a cross he wears around his neck during games.
“My grandmother gave it to me for my confirmation,” he said. “She had it blessed by a priest at Notre Dame. I’m reminded of my faith and family because it’s from her.”
On game days, after the team prayer, Putz will kiss the cross and then tuck it under his pads before going out on the gridiron.
Family means the world to Putz. He has two younger brothers that he adores. His brother Jude is a freshman at Miege, while his youngest brother Rowan is a seventh-grader at St. Thomas More School.
To hear him tell it, in six years, everyone will be referring to Carter Putz as the worst athlete of the Putz brothers.
Jude is a wide receiver at Miege and Rowan plays linebacker and running back for his youth team.
“I believe they can be better than I am. They’re going to be great football players,” Putz said. “I love watching them play because they find a lot of joy in playing sports.”
The final act
As the Kansas state high school playoffs start, Miege is the heavy favorite to win a fourth straight state championship. Miege is widely considered the best football team in the state. Holmes gives Putz a lot of that credit.
“He’s obviously that face of the program being the quarterback and a three-year starter,” Holmes said. “This is the most successful run we’ve had in the history of our program, and he’s been the one guy that’s been the constant that whole time.”
Next year, Putz will take his talent to the University of Notre Dame — but not for football. Putz is also a standout second baseman on the Miege baseball team. He’s been a starter since he was a freshman and has parlayed that talent into a baseball scholarship.
Yet, he still calls football his first love.
“It will be hard for me to give up football after this year,” Putz said. “I know that I’m going to have that urge to play.”
Few have played it better in the state of Kansas.