A Champion is Forever
A Champion is Forever

Mason Monheim


By Aaron Dorksen

There are lots of cautionary tales of college athletes who didn’t take their education seriously and squandered away golden opportunities.

Mason Monheim is not one of those athletes.

The 2012 Orrville graduate placed just as much importance on the STUDENT in student-athlete as he did playing football at Illinois. The result was one of the most impressive college careers from a Wayne County athlete after a star-studded prep career at Orrville.

After being a four-year starter at linebacker for the Fighting Illini, Monheim actually chose furthering his education by enrolling in the Ohio State University College of Dentistry instead of pursuing an NFL career.

Several agents told the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Monheim that he would likely be selected in the NFL Draft, but after wrestling with the decision he opted to walk away from the riches and fame of the NFL.

“I always knew football was going to end, whether that be through injury or just by my personal choice, but I accomplished what I wanted to,” Monheim said at the time of his decision. “Through a lot of contemplation (the NFL) is not what I’m going to do. There’s more to life than football. I feel like it’s time I hang ’em up and pursue a couple other things in life, so I’m going to dental school.”

Monheim had lived out his dream of playing in the Big Ten after making arguably the biggest impact in college football of anyone from Wayne County since Smithville’s Larry Kolic (WCSHOF Class of 1994)  started for Ohio State in the 1980s and went on to play for the Miami Dolphins.

Statistics show that less than 30 percent of players who sign a Div. I football scholarship ever start a game, but Monheim became a regular in his third college contest and never left the lineup.

Monheim’s 391 career tackles are seventh-best in Illini history – two spots in front of the late Pro Football hall of famer Dick Butkus – and he’s fourth in forced fumbles (7).

A two-time honorable mention All-Big Ten honoree, Monheim had interception returns for touchdowns against archrival Northwestern in the regular-season finales his junior AND senior seasons.

Monheim’s most impressive play might have been when he stopped Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott head-on for a loss on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-yard line at Ohio Stadium in front of 106,961 fans in 2014. The Buckeyes won that game 55-15 and would go on to win the national title, but Monheim battled until the end in finishing with 11 tackles.

Illinois compiled records of 2-10, 4-8, 6-7 and, finally, 5-7 in Monheim’s senior year. As a junior, Monheim played in his only bowl game when Illinois lost to Louisiana Tech (35-18).

Monheim was honored as the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar (2014), three-time Academic All-Big Ten (2013, 2014, 2015) and voted a Team Captain in 2015. He was a Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarship Recipient

Monheim would almost certainly make any all-time Wayne County high school All-Star team list. He was a four-year letterwinner for coach Doug Davault, two-time Ohio Associated Press Division IV Ohio Defensive Player of the Year and two-time first-team All-Ohioan.

As a junior, Monheim set the Wayne County single-season record with 191 tackles. Orrville’s career leader in tackles, Monheim played in the Ohio/Pennsylvania Big 33 All-Star Game after his senior season.

Monheim also lettered as a swimmer for the Red Riders in 2009-10.

“One of my favorite memories of my high school career has to be from middle school to my senior year, I continued the family tradition of never losing to Wooster,” Monheim said. “I carry that badge of honor alongside my two older brothers, Victor and Vincent and father, John. It’s a storied County rivalry that I was so fortunate to be a part of and have many great memories of.”

Monheim married his high school sweetheart Madison (Ross) and they welcomed their first child, Grant, in December, 2023. The Monheims reside in Orrville and Mason practices dentistry with his father, John Monheim, at Monheim Dentistry.

“We are located in the heart of Orrville and I love serving the people and community I grew up in,“ Mason said.