Tanner Lemm was two sets away from winning a tennis state championship this season.
Two days after taking second place at No. 1 singles for Campbell County High School on Sept. 26, he dressed in football pads and took the practice field for the Camels football team.
As a senior, Lemm said knew he’d regret it if he didn’t give football one more season. He wanted to complete a full tennis season first, but after the state tournament, CCHS football coach Andrew Rose gave him the green light to join the football team to play out the remainder of the season.
Lemm’s first football game was Friday, and the stakes couldn’t have been higher. Campbell County (1-5) had No. 1-ranked Cheyenne Central on upset alert for much of the game, which also was homecoming for the Camels. The teams went into halftime with Central up 7-6.
Lemm said he was nervous to see what he could do to help his teammates out on the football field.
Those nerves didn’t last long.
While Rose opted not to start Lemm right away and had him sit out the first offensive drive, he was a presence in the second, making his first catch of the season for 10 yards on a crucial third down to keep the drive alive.
The highlight of Lemm’s night came on a 25-yard lob pass from quarterback Kaden Race. Lining up out wide, Lemm beat the cornerback before Race threw a fade just short of the end zone.
Lemm and Cheyenne Central’s Jake Henrie both went up for the ball. Keeping both feet in bounds, Lemm fought Henrie off and came down with the football, stiff-arming Henrie on his way to his first touchdown of 2020.
While Lemm is plenty familiar with the high school tennis rule book, he wasn’t as up to speed with football’s. Ecstatic about the score, Lemm took all his adrenaline and excitement out on the football, spiking it into the turf at Camels Stadium.
Before the ball could slow to a stop on the ground, the referee’s flag was at Lemm’s feet.
“I caught the touchdown and I didn’t really know what to do,” Lemm said. “I was just so excited so I spiked the ball and got a penalty and then I felt bad and that really ruined my vibe.”
The touchdown stood and his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was enforced on the ensuing kickoff, but he was treated to some positive feedback upon reaching the sideline.
“Everyone was like, ‘That spike was awesome!’” Lemm said. “I wish I could do it again. Apparently, everybody else knew that was a penalty, but I’m a tennis guy.”
While the Camels eventually lost to the Indians 19-6 to fall to 1-5, Lemm’s presence was felt on the football field almost immediately. He ended the game with four catches for 64 yards and a touchdown, or 16.4 fantasy points for the fantasy football junkies.
“He’s a great athlete and he’s naturally gifted,” Race said. “He’s just a good enough athlete to go out and play. I think everybody looks at him and sees how he fights hard for the ball and the other guys are going to feed off that.”
Lemm didn’t just help set the tone on offense against the best team in the state of Wyoming, but also played nearly the entire game on both sides of the ball. A week removed from competing against Wyoming’s best tennis players, Lemm was lining up at cornerback.
“It was definitely a change from what I’m used to, but it was exciting,” Lemm said about the change of pace.
While Lemm’s plan to play both sports this fall was supported by both Rose and CCHS tennis coach Mark Miessler, his basketball teammates were a little more cautious to see Lemm running slant routes up the middle of the field and into the heart of the Indians’ linebacker group.
“Going over the middle was something that was talked about with some of my basketball guys telling me not to get hurt and stuff,” Lemm said. “Going over the middle and getting hit by those linebackers was what happened on the first play. I got popped a little bit and kind of just settled in after that.”