A.J. Ouellette, a 2014 graduate of Covington High School, was in select company on Saturday at the 60th Touchdown Club of Columbus Awards Banquet a The Sheraton Capitol Square in Columbus.

The reason, Ouellette was recognized, along with several other athletes from across the country, for his performance as a true freshman at Ohio University this past fall.

Ouellette, who walked on at Ohio University this past summer, overcame the odds to advance from fifth on the Bobcats’ depth chart to the featured running back in the span of three games. He finished the season as Ohio’s top rusher, gaining 804 yards on 19 carries and seven touchdowns, He also hauled in 21 receptions out of the backfield for 133 yards and three touchdowns. All this came in primarily six full games.

For his performance, Ouellette was recognized by the Touchdown Club as a 2015 Player To Watch, one of six recipients of the award.

“It was pretty sweet,” said Ouellette of his big night. “Being recognized along with nationally known players and a gold medal winner, that’s a pretty cool honor.”

Ouellette’s story has been well chronicled during nationally televised games as he became the Bobcats’ starter in the backfield. Coming out of high school he didn’t receive a single scholarship offer from a Division I program, despite putting up eye-popping numbers on the football field and in the weight room at Covington High School.

His story became a personal favorite of Curtis Boster, the President and Co-Chairman of the Touchdown Club.

“The President of the Touchdown Club came to see me,” Ouellette said. “He told me that my story inspired everyone there and that I was his favorite player.”

And it was Boster who introduced Ouellette to those in attendance at the banquet. He even took the time to tell A.J.’s story, show a highlight video and present Ouellette with his award.

“I couldn’t believe it when he stood up there and told everyone my story and how I was his favorite player,” Ouellette explained. “That’s amazing to me because of all of the great players who were there – players from Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida State – you name it. I still can’t believe it.”

What also makes it hard to believe is one year ago A.J. Ouellette was an unknown, a very talented and highly motivated high school kid begging for someone to take notice.

“It has been a long, hard road, but it’s been worth it,” he said. “I knew all I needed was a chance and when I went up to accept the award all I could think of was thanking OU for giving me a chance.”

Still, Ouellette isn’t one to become complacent or one to think he has arrived.

Instead, he’s one who uses everything – good or bad – as motivation to get better.

“Oh, this only ads fuel for next year,” he said. “I’m only going to work even harder. I can’t wait to get started.”

Hard work and determination is what has gotten Ouellette this far.

And it’s only the beginning.

A.J. Ouellette and Zeke Elliott pose with their awards at the 60th annual Touchdown Club of Columbus Awards Banquet.