HERMITS BIG MAN JAKE KETSCHEK WILL NOT BACK DOWN FROM ANY CHALLENGE 2020 PUTS IN FRONT OF HIM
Vanderbilt commit won't let state-imposed limitations stand in the way of achieving his and his team's goals
Most of what we hear about COVID-19 over the few months has been terrible.
Most of the news is about the number of people getting sick or passing.
We hear so much about the impact the coronavirus has had on our economy, nationally and locally.
There have been positives. We have seen the youth of the country stand up for what they feel is right with regards to social injustice and other issues.
We see every single day young people finding ways to improve their station in life and continue to reach for the stars and realize their dreams and goals.
St. Augustine Prep All State offensive tackle Jake Ketschek, and his teammates are a great example of that drive to success in spite of the challenges the virus has put in front of them.
Schools have been closed. All competitive sports have been put on hold. Athletes have not been allowed to even practice together. All part of an effort to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases.
In a recent phone interview with Footballstories, Ketschek was asked if the uniqueness of what has happened this year has sunk in yet.
“There is a uniqueness, but more of, it is it's disappointing in a way, but also it gives a way to
separate those that really want to be good, and those who are kind of just going through the motions,” Ketschek said .“I think it's going to be interesting to see who really wanted to be good when it all comes down to it, if we're allowed to play.”
Ketschek, who is entering his senior year at the Richland, New Jersey school, said he would not let himself get down on the limitations state authorities put on high school sports and practices. He said he turned the situation into a challenge.
“Our head coach, Pete Lancetta, always preaches to us about adversity ever since he stepped foot in the school. This is just another piece of adversity that we've got to work through. It's nothing new for us. We've all been getting after it, making sure we stay on each other, working hard.”
Like many other serious student-athletes, Ketschek was working on his off season training when the pandemic shut down most activities in New Jersey.
Ketschek said he just made due with what he had in front of him and kept on grinding.
“I have a set of weights in my garage,” said Ketschek, who is listed at 6-foot-4, 318 pounds. “So I was always able to lift. I looked up videos on YouTube about footwork and stuff you can do with a medicine ball like throwing it or rolling it. I have been just making sure that I stay active, looking for work.”
HERMITS BIG MAN IS HEADED TO THE SEC
Ketschek has made a verbal commitment to attend and play college football at Vanderbilt University. The Commodores play in the highly competitive Southeastern Conference East Division against powerhouse programs such as Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Vanderbilt plays two programs a year from the West that can include Alabama and LSU.
Ketschek said he felt like the Commodores really wanted him to be part of their program.
“At Vanderbilt, I was listed as No. 1 for interior linemen,” Ketschek said. “They always made sure I knew that they wanted me to play there and they wanted me bad. That always stuck out to me over other schools. They really made it sound like I was a necessity for the school to have and that I was their guy. That really made a huge difference for me.”
Ketschek said the coaches he talked to at Vanderbilt including offensive line coach Peter Rossomando, made it clear he will likely play guard in college. Ketschek has been playing tackle exclusively at St. Augustine for three years. "Likely” is the key word here.
“It could go either way,” Ketschek said. “I've always liked to play tackle, but I'm more of the height of a (college) guard.”
THERE WILL BE GREAT OPPONENTS EVERY WEEK AS WELL AS AT PRACTICE
Ketschek dominates at the high school level. His videos online show him clobbering would-be defensive lineman trying to make a tackle...forget sacks.
He admits he will need to add to his Rolodex of lineman techniques if he hopes to have success against elite SEC defensive linemen such as Christian Barmore (Alabama), Zacch Pickens (South Carolina), Nathan Pickering (Mississippi State) and Travon Walker (Georgia).
All will be juniors when Ketschek starts his career with the Commodores.
Ketschek said upgrading his skill level is such a priority, he is getting training on the side.
“It's going to be a huge part,” he said. “I work with a skills trainer Melik Brown (Next Level Greats). He does a lot for me, helps me with the ins and outs of why I have to do things. I have no doubt that coach Rossomando of Vanderbilt is going to get me to where I need to be. And get me above and beyond the technique and strategy that I need to succeed. I'm very confident in that.”
Ketschek talked about the impact his high school head coach has had on him on and off the field.
“He's a great guy,” Ketschek said of Lancetta. “He's very straightforward with you. He won't beat around the bush if he's got to tell you bad news. He cares about you more as a person than a football player, and getting you ready for life. That really means a lot coming from him.”
DO YOU LOVE FOOTBALL?
Does Ketschek love football? Many coaches at the college and pro level want players who love what they are doing. Players in the sport just to get a scholarship or land a lucrative contract are not always team players. Coaches want guys who can't get enough of it.
“Loving the game of football? I was built for it,” Ketschek said. “God blessed me with size and ability. It would be a waste if I didn't play football. I love it and yes, I love football.”
MORE ON ROSSOMANDO
Ketschek knows his everyday boss at Vanderbilt will be the offensive line coach. Ketschek knows having a great, productive relationship with that coach is important. Ketschek, who was recruited by a number of Ivy League programs, talks about how he and Rossomando met.
“He was the Rutgers O-line coach when I camped at Rutgers,” Ketschek recalled. “I did really good. He was straight-forward with me, 'I'm a new guy here but you're the type of player that I want. You have the ability and we're going to get you offered here.' Ever since that happened, we always had a tight relationship. When he went to Vanderbilt, he was there on Monday and offered me Friday. He always made me know I was a priority target. That means a lot for me.”
Ketschek said he visited Nashville, TN in March and that's when he committed.
St. Augustine plays in one of the country's toughest high school playoff brackets, the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 4 tournament.
The Hermits lost in the semi-finals last season to St, Peter's Prep, the No. 1 ranked team in New Jersey. Lancetta's team kept it close, dropping a 35-28 verdict to the Marauders.
Will Ketschek put the pressure on his shoulders to lead his team to a title this fall?
“Absolutely,” Ketschek said without hesitation. “I think it comes down to the way we practice first of all. And just who wants it. When we get up north, they throw the ball against each other and all that fancy stuff. Then we come up and we just want to run the ball down your throat. We emphasize that through all the games, but especially up north. It's really going to come down to who wants it more and we're a very hungry team this year. We want it a whole lot.”
Ketschek, who lists Eagles Pro Bowl offensive linemen Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson as the NFL players he admires most, says he only looks at the next practice, the next day with regards to his football career. But to do great things, like winning championships or making it to the pro level, it takes vision. Ketschek talked about his vision as an athlete.
“I feel that through consistency, staying after it, just making myself the best player I can be, I feel there is no ceiling to my potential, or where I can go,” Ketschek said. “I just think that anything is a possibility if I put my mind to it. That's how I go.” *
And as Ketschek goes, so go the Hermits.*
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii