Hersey three-sport athlete Gudaitis will move on to Illinois State
Idle time seemed like such a great idea back then.
Now ... not so much.
Too much of a good thing, after all, isn't always such a good thing.
On the days when Ryan Gudaitis used to be at Hersey High School from 6:30 in the morning until 7 at night, a few free hours were dreamed of, and certainly coveted in the rare instances when they were a reality.
"Summers especially were crazy," Gudaitis said. "I was at school all day, every day. I'd have to pack a lunch and even then, I was there so long that I'd have to have family members stop by a couple times through the day with more food. It was a long day, it was hectic."
Now that COVID-19 restrictions are nearing their eighth straight month and idle time continues to be plentiful, Gudaitis longs for that hecticness. He is about to jump out of his skin.
Gudaitis is one of those rare commodities in high school athletics, used to being busy from sun up to sun down, every season of every year. Gudaitis is a four-year, three-sport athlete, and an even rarer, football, basketball and baseball combination. Sitting at home due to COVID restrictions is about the polar opposite of what his life was like just a year ago when, on most summer days, he hustled between football and basketball and baseball activities all day long.
"It's been crazy because of (COVID)," Gudaitis said. "And we never really know what's coming next."
Actually, there is one thing that Gudaitis can count on.
Through all of the hecticness, and in spite of all of the uncertainty that COVID has brought in recent months, Gudaitis is seeing his long hours of work paying off.
The senior got an offer to play football at Illinois State in the spring, committed in August and will sign in mid-December to make it official.
The 6-foot-4, 260-pound offensive lineman generated most of his interest from film during his junior season last fall in which he blocked for one of the most talented quarterbacks in Hersey history: Jordan Hansen, who is now playing at Northern Illinois.
Hersey went 9-2 in 2019 and qualified for the IHSA playoffs.
"That was an awesome season," Gudaitis said. "It was such a great experience being on that team."
It was a great learning opportunity for Gudaitis, too.
Gudaitis, who played mostly at guard last year, but did get some time at tackle and center, was the only non-senior to start on the line. He says that the senior linemen were great mentors, particularly Austin Korba, who is now playing at Butler.
"The seniors were very inclusive and it was a lot of fun playing with them," Gudaitis said. "They really helped me improve. They taught me how to be a leader and they taught me all the subtle things about being a good lineman."
Scouts consistently told Gudaitis that one of the things they liked most about him is his athleticism for his size. Quick feet, good movement and hand-eye coordination.
He says that comes from his involvement in basketball and baseball. It also probably comes from genetics.
The entire Gudaitis family is sports-oriented.
Father Sean played basketball at a junior college and is a social studies teacher at Hersey who also coaches basketball and baseball there. Mom Cathy was a swimmer at Eastern Illinois, older brother Quin is the No. 1 pitcher at Illinois Wesleyan and older sister Kate is on the track team at Carroll University.
"I remember Ryan's dad would have him in the weight room when he was really young and I would always say, 'You're going to be a lineman for us someday,'" Hersey football coach Joe Pardun said. "Athletics definitely runs in that family. I think the fact that Ryan's a three-sport athlete has really added to his athleticism. The confidence and leadership and competitiveness he's developed while being involved in all of these different sports has really helped him. He is a leader among our leaders and I use him as an example to all of our younger kids."
Gudaitis, also solid in the classroom with a 4.0 grade-point average, isn't about to give up one last chance to be that leader that Pardun counts on.
In theory, with a college scholarship set, he could take a pass on the IHSA's revamped season in the spring of 2021, and look ahead to Illinois State. But he wants one more shot with the Huskies.
"I am 100 percent playing (in the spring)," Gudaitis said. "There's no way I'm sitting that out. We've put too much time in, and I wouldn't do that to my teammates. I want to help us be great."