Fremd's Bobek stayed focused on greatness

 
 
Updated 6/17/2011 11:14 PM
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  • Fremd football player Brian Bobek gets a hand from varsity coach Mike Donatucci during a presentation of a US Army All-American Bowl jersey to Bobek at Fremd High School in Palatine on Wednesday, September 29.

      Fremd football player Brian Bobek gets a hand from varsity coach Mike Donatucci during a presentation of a US Army All-American Bowl jersey to Bobek at Fremd High School in Palatine on Wednesday, September 29. GEORGE LECLAIRE | Staff Photographer

  • Fremd's Brian Bobek is the kind of leader other players look up to on the field.

      Fremd's Brian Bobek is the kind of leader other players look up to on the field. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Staying committed is a lot easier when everything is going well. It's a different story when times are difficult.

Recent Fremd graduate Brian Bobek had a number of chances in the last year to show what commitment means as he made the best of what could have been the worst of times.

The offensive lineman was part of a 1-4 start and 11-point halftime deficit at Palatine that put Fremd's 15-year streak of football playoff berths in jeopardy.

Throughout the season in track and field, which isn't his primary sport, he battled injuries that severely limited his ability to practice the shot put.

And then there are the well-documented problems facing the Ohio State football program to which Bobek committed nearly 15 months ago.

In each instance, his commitment never wavered. Not only to himself but to his teammates and coaches at his former and future schools.

Combine that with all-American honors in football and all-state honors in track and it adds up to Bobek's selection as the Daily Herald's 2010-11 Cook County Male Athlete of the Year.

"He's one of those rare kids who have talent and they work hard," said Fremd head track coach Jim Aikens, who has guided some of the state's premier shot putters. "It's a nice recipe for greatness. I think he's going to do great things (at Ohio State)."

Aikens wouldn't get any disagreement from Fremd football coach Mike Donatucci after Bobek helped his program not only extend its playoff streak to 16 years but also win a first-round game.

"He lived up to his billing as an all-American," Donatucci said after the football season ended. "He was dominant on both sides of the ball in every game he played. He was a team player who never put his own agenda in front of the team."

Bobek's main agenda was to make sure he wasn't part of the football team that ended the longest streak of playoff trips in Mid-Suburban League history. It was his primary focus even as he was being honored for his selection to the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl featuring some of the nation's top high school senior players.

So, if it meant moving from his future home at center to play some guard or to contribute on defense, then it was no problem for Bobek.

And the adversities Bobek faced should help him deal with those in his future.

"It's kind of strange but the last three sports seasons were all kind of the same," Bobek said. "(Junior) year in track, football and this year in track, we were really down at some point with me and the team and we always found a way to dig ourselves out of the hole. It's definitely going to help me down the road."

Bobek could have decided track wasn't going to help him on the road to his future at Ohio State. He battled groin problems as a junior but finished fifth in the shot at the Class 3A state meet with a throw of 57 feet, 8 inches.

This spring Aikens said muscular problems in Bobek's back resulted in him making about 110 throws in practice or competition the entire outdoor season. Aikens said the norm is usually 100-plus throws a week.

"He said, 'Coach, I'm coming back, the team needs me,'" Aikens said. "That was a great thing for him to say.

"Once things weren't going well it would have been very easy to hang it up and get ready for football. To his credit he kept working through it."

Bobek barely scratched on a 65-foot throw at the MSL meet but the injury led to inconsistency. Not that there was any shame in finishing fourth in the state in 3A at 61-5.

That would have been good enough to claim the big-school (Class AA) state title in all but two years from 1989-2007. Those happened to be Fremd champions coached by Aikens -- Keith Lozowski at 62-8 in 1993 and Ken Kemeny at 61-8 in 2000.

"What Brian accomplished was pretty darn amazing," Aikens said.

"You start to think, 'Is it really worth it when my No. 1 sport is football,'" Bobek said. "It was definitely challenging mentally for me but I think in the end I made a good decision to hang with it."

Bobek feels the same way about Ohio State despite all of the problems that led to the resignation of head coach Jim Tressel and has many wondering about the future of one of the country's most successful college football programs.

Bobek could have looked to head elsewhere. Instead, today he's heading to Columbus to start training and attending summer school.

"The way I looked at it is they're committed to me just like I'm committed to them," Bobek said. "In my senior season of football if I would have blown out my knee and never played football again I'd still keep my scholarship.

"I looked at it the same way. I'm going to stick to them because they're sticking to me. I would never consider changing my mind."

Not surprising considering the commitment to excellence Brian Bobek displayed during his four years at Fremd.

mmaciaszek@dailyherald.com