Senior QB Mark Tolzien prepares to pass during practice at Fremd High School. He was named Daily Herald all-area football captain.
Brett Nadal | Staff Photographer
Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer
There are those who would have viewed two successful older siblings as a brotherly burden.
Mark Tolzien embraced the blessings of following brothers Mike and Scott into Fremd's perennially successful football program.
And Mark Tolzien isn't afraid to admit how he was affected by what could have been a difficult situation.
"Being the younger brother definitely helped me out in a huge way," Tolzien said. "With two brothers going through the program I could sit back and watch how they approached it.
"The things they did well and didn't do so well."
Tolzien helped Fremd to a season better than any other in school history this fall. He was the quarterback for a record 11 victories and two of the program's three state quarterfinal trips.
Tolzien set two school records and finished this year by hitting 61 percent of his passes for 1,987 yards and 18 touchdowns. In the classroom, he's never received a grade below an "A."
His class and dignity on and off the field made Tolzien a perfect choice to captain our Cook County 2007 All-Area Football Team.
And there is no question the Fremd football program will miss having a Tolzien around.
"He's a kid who deserves everything he gets from the way he acts on and off the field," said Fremd volunteer assistant and 1998 All-Area captain and quarterback Patrick Brown.
"It doesn't happen by chance," said Fremd coach Mike Donatucci. "All three Tolzien kids were brought up with an intense amount of selflessness.
"Mark epitomizes that even more than Scott and Mike because he knew he was the man and not one time did that ever show a glimpse of itself. Mark was the ultimate team player."
Tolzien did have big shoes to fill as he followed another All-Area captain -- his brother Scott, who is a redshirt freshman at Wisconsin.
As a junior, Mark shared time early with versatile all-area pick Anthony Farrella. He eventually became the primary quarterback and threw for 1,071 yards and 10 touchdowns as he helped Fremd to its first quarterfinal berth in 10 years.
"He never once tried to be Scott, he always knew he was Mark," Donatucci said. "He just made the best out of that and in the long run outdid his brother."
But that wasn't Tolzien's motivation.
"He was really proud of what Scott did but he went about it the right way," Brown said. "He wanted to create his own identity and I think he did that.
"He went out and did it on his own and put in the time during the winter."
Brown would come in two to three times a week at 6:30 a.m. to work with Tolzien on aspects such as his footwork. They also watched film to find ways to improve.
"He's really one of those kids who gets lost in football and enjoys every aspect of it," said Brown, who quarterbacked Fremd to its first quarterfinal berth.
"It's unbelievable all the things he's done for me to help me out," Tolzien said. "It's nice because he's been through it all."
Tolzien applied everything he learned to put together a season that was perfect until a heartbreaking last-minute loss to Glenbard North.
And along the way, he never lost sight of thanking everyone from coaches to teammates to ballboys for their part in making it successful.
"What you see is what you get with him personality-wise," Brown said. "He's one of those kids you just want to be around. A very humble kid."
Tolzien, who scored 27 on the ACT, isn't sure what he wants to study in college. He's received interest from Illinois, Illinois State, Ball State and Colorado and Ivy League schools Brown, Dartmouth, Princeton and Yale.
Mark isn't worried about his future since Scott's college plans weren't set until just before the February signing day. And education is an important part.
"Scott and Mike (at the Air Force Academy) set a great example for me," Mark said. "The work ethic they have and taking pride to try and make everything succeed."
It's another brotherly blessing Mark Tolzien has no interest in disguising.