St. Charles East grad Ploszek relishes the new chapters in his life
Pete Ploszek is a man of many talents.
At St. Charles East, Ploszek excelled on the football field and track surface as well as in the classroom. During his senior year, the 2005 graduate rushed for 1,525 yards while earning all-state, all-conference, and all-area recognition as first-year Saints coach Ted Monken guided the team to a 4-5 record.
On the track, Ploszek captured the 200-meter dash indoor state title during his senior season and went on to place sixth in the both the 100- and 200-meter sprints at the state outdoor meet in May of 2005.
After playing four years of Division 1 football at Princeton University, Ploszek graduated in 2009 and elected to pursue an acting career in California.
"College football was intense," admitted Ploszek. "Acting was my way of getting away from the grind. It was an inspirational moment for me. Something clicked."
Ploszek attended USC's School of Dramatic Arts, earning his Masters of Fine Arts degree in Acting in 2012.
From there, he landed the part as Leonardo in the movies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, as well as single-episode appearances on Parks & Recreation (2012), Shameless (2013) and Workaholics (2015).
Ploszek, who appeared as Zeb in the recently released Indie movie, The Wedding Party, currently plays what he calls "a real fun villain," teacher Garrett Douglas in MTV's hit series, Teen Wolf.
The 29-year-old just completed his first book, titled Get Fast and Crush the Combine, a no-frills guide geared toward aspiring high school athletes.
"It's a way for me to close a very meaningful chapter in my life by showing kids like me (skinny with little natural football ability) that they too can catch their dreams of playing college football," said Ploszek.
"I put 12 years into football -- the last six of which were spent pretty seriously with trainers and strength and conditioning experts."
Ploszek credited his wife, Daniela, with the book idea.
"The light bulb went on and she helped me realize that I could put my knowledge to good use," he said. "I wrote it between the two Turtles movies. It was a real joy."
Ploszek teamed with the book's illustrator, David Barneda.
"I was so grateful to work on the book with David," said Ploszek. "I met David through Jeremy Howard, who played Donatello (in the Turtles movies)."
Admittedly, Ploszek didn't fit the prototypical tailback role during his early high school days.
"I was undersized and I lacked natural football ability," he said. "I had to learn the game but I had coachable feet, a willingness to learn the game and the desire to work my tail off."
Ploszek worked with speed coaches to improve his combine times and recruitment potential.
"Posting numbers in five main areas (40-yard dash, shuttle run, broad jump, medicine ball toss, etc.) was a form like dance steps," he recalled. "It's about bringing power and explosiveness and streamlining it to a specific form."
Writing the book was important to Ploszek, who played free safety and led the Saints in tackles as a junior before becoming the team's MVP his senior season.
"As I've become an actor, I realize how my skills translate from football to acting," said Ploszek. "The pregame preparations are no different from breaking down a script. I'm grateful for what sports taught me. I've learned many life lessons through sports."
Ploszek returned to Chicago last week, spending some time Friday at his high school alma mater.
"It has been 11 years since I've been back at St. Charles East," said Ploszek. "I took a tour of the school and spoke with some former teachers and coaches like Brian Teresinski. I met with the (current) football coach (Bryce Farquhar).
"We talked about how St. Charles East has never had a problem finding running backs."
Ploszek has heard all about the success of the current Saints football team (11-0) from his home in Marina del Rey outside Los Angeles.
"My two years on varsity, I think we were 1-8 and 4-5," said Ploszek. "I never got to be a Saint in the state playoffs. It has to be thrilling just to walk around the halls at school this year -- everyone wins."
St. Charles East makes its third-ever state quarterfinal appearance Saturday at Palatine (11-0).
"I couldn't even realize what it would feel like," said Ploszek.
Priced at $9.99, the book is available on Amazon through digital download.
"I wrote this book for the kid who can't afford the fancy speed schools or specialized trainers," said Ploszek. "It will walk you through a workout and show what you can do to see improvements -- to be your own coach.
"As an athlete and as an actor, you have to be a self-starter. You're the product."
Craig Brueske can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org