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  • Writer's pictureAl Thompson


The senior-to-be defensive lineman is not letting the COVID-19 restrictions keep him from training for football

Steven Olexy made his own quarterback's throwing arm out of tubing and electric tape. Photo from Olexy family

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every segment of society. Those in our medical and scientific community, as well as those working our retail operations and public services should be first in our thoughts.

Those men and women who are putting it all on the line every day to help us all get through these tough times and eventually get us on a path back to a normal life, deserve our love and appreciation.

But there are stories about other struggles going on, maybe not on the front line, but stories that involve the hopes and dreams of Americans from all walks of life and interests.

Sports is such a big part of our lives. Virtually all athletic activity is on hold as our leaders try to sort out how to return us to some level of normality.

Like the eight million high school student-athletes in this country, Wyomissing High School junior defensive lineman Steven Olexy is finding ways to train for the 2020 season despite COVID-19 restrictions.

If you look at his social media account you can see the 5-foot-11, 240 pounder has been literally using anything he can find around the house to simulate blocking and tackling drills.

Receivers, defensive backs and quarterbacks can find a field or backyard somewhere safe and throw the ball around...but linemen? That's a little trickier.

“Yeah, everything…chairs…I used tape to attach a football to a stick so I can pass rush and swat at the {Imaginary) quarterback and keep him from throwing the ball,” Olexy said in a phone interview recently.

Since there was no real quarterback to clobber, Olexy was able to smack the ball a lot, so naturally a lot of time was spent re-attaching his prop football to the stick (see photo). “He used a lot of electrical tape,” Steven’s mother Stacy said with a laugh. “He ruined every electrical tape roll I had. But I will say too, he liked the idea of inventing things like that all the time too.”

Steven Olexy lifting in a make-shift weight room in his basement. Photo by Stacy Olexy

Steven's parents Stacy and Doug, both teachers on furlough, helped their son by setting up a workout room in their basement.

“You have to stay active,” Olexy said. “My mom bought a bunch of weights from her friend. My parents helped me set up a weight room and a bench in the basement. I’ve been using it. I’m getting stronger.”

Olexy said the street they live on lost power during a major thunderstorm. Again, it was time to improvise.

“I had to use candles so I could lift in the basement,” he said. “And flashlights. It was pretty hard but we got through it.”

Wyomissing (12-1) was the 2019 Berks Section 2 and PIAA District 3 Champions. The Spartans lost to Tamaqua 20-10 in the state quarterfinals. Photo from Steven O'Neal Twitter

THE HEAD COACH WEIGHS IN Olexy's head coach Bob Wolfrum said he is not surprised to hear of his tackle's resilience. He has seen it often over the last three years.

“Steven’s engine is running at 100 percent in the weight room, on the practice field, and on the game field,” Wolfrum said via email last week. “Steve’s one of the few players I’ve ever had that we have to tell to take it easy at practice at times.”

Olexy says he is on the internet looking for different ways to train and is a sponge getting that info, as well as taking direction from his coaches.

“I watch a lot of d-line videos on YouTube,” Olexy said. “I always watch a lot of college coaches and players flip hits. When I was going to Penn State campus when I was young, they would always do those drills. In the winter time, I also go up to Schuylkill County to train with a coach up there. We always do those drills. We always do those punching drills that I do to defeat offensive linemen with their run blocking schemes. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

Steven Olexy - Spartan football

OLEXY IS ABLE TO STAY IN TOUCH WITH COACHES Olexy, who wants to play college football after he graduates, talked about his coaches.

“Our coaches are doing a great job with us with these zoom meetings we are doing,” Olexy said. “We have team meetings that way. We talk with our position coaches. Our coach Frank Ferrandino (O-Backs), he’s always talking to us about workouts. Coach Dave Outland (LB) is giving us workouts every week on line. And the players and coaches are following it. I’ve been doing the workouts and it’s been paying off.”

Olexy talked about Wyomissing line coach Steven O'Neil.

“Me and Coach O'Neil's relationship is good because we know what we both have to prepare for in practice each week when we face the other opponent,” said Olexy,who lists Aaron Donald and JJ Watt as his favorite NFL players. “We have the similar background of hard work. And Coach O'Neil always wants me to get better and my teammates to get better everyday. So we have that great relationship. And sometimes I joke with him about the (Denver) Broncos losing a lot of games last year, So yeah we have a great relationship.”

The Spartans went 12-1 overall in 2019, winning the PIAA District 3 Championship before losing to Tamaqua 20-10 in the state quarterfinals.

Obviously Wyomissing would like to go further in 2020 provided there is a season. Olexy brought up some of the many key players including quarterback Zach Zechman,.plus fullback/OL Evan Neidrowski, Tight end Aiden Mack, offensive linemen Ruhard Williams and Seamus Filoon, tight end Darren Bruuner, running backs Jordan Auman and Jamair McCalpine plus linebacker Tommy Grabowski.

Wolfrum praised all his coaches for keeping things together.

“Our coaching staff has done a good job getting individual workouts to our players that they can do at home,” the long-time coach said. “We have had to have coaches meetings online and now are meeting with the kids remotely . We’re sure hoping that we have a season. Hopefully during the fall but we’ll take anything we can get as long as we get to play.”

Olexy, at the end of the call, said the same thing.

“One day at a time,” Olexy said. “Hopefully this virus passes us by.” *

Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii

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