CORAL GABLES, Fla.--There are moments and decisions in every person's life that shape who they eventually become. Every path is different, but for these student-athletes, they have all eventually led to Coral Gables. Their stories in their words...
Jake Wieclaw| Kicker | Junior | New Lenox, Ill.
Chicago is where I was born and raised. It's funny now, with the whole Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat rivalry, I feel like a lone soldier down here (laughs). Chicago guys are all hometown fans. I take a lot of pride in where I come from, and I'm happy to tell people I'm from Chicago.
I've been here for three years, and it's been a complete 180-degree change. I came from a small suburb of Chicago where my high school was 4,000 people, about 99% of whom were white. And here in Miami, it's a melting pot of everything. It's definitely made me think more broadly and I've learned a lot. It's been an experience, getting to know more than the little world you grew up in.
Best advice ever received came from Coach Swasey tells us, "you get out what you put in." I can't tell you who told us this, but when I first got here, I remember overhearing a coach saying during one of our tough workouts, "I'm never going to put you through anything you can't handle." To this day, every time we have a tough work out, that kind of flashes through my head.
Al Golden is a real stand-up guy. He came in and from the get-go he told us that his main job is to love and respect his players, and I've seen nothing from that since he's been here. He's a good guy, he sticks to his word, and I've always been able to talk to him about anything if I ever needed it.
Competition is the name of the game. Here, it's what you need. You need competition to become better than you are now, you need it to work for goals, I feel like it's one of the most important things in sports. It's the reason I've been playing sports my whole life, to compete and to win.
I always played soccer and football growing up, but when I got to high school I had to commit and stick to one, and decided to choose football.
The anatomy of the kick is all about staying calm. I'm constantly watching the game, and when we get the ball, it's time to loosen up and get a couple warm-up kicks in. When we cross the 50-yard line, there's an even greater chance I have to kick. I try not to stress out about anything, because that's what will kill you. I stay as calm as I can and stay loose, understand what I need to do.
As far as going out and kicking, in game situations, as far as field goals go at least, I think about all these things leading up to the kick, but when you're out there, it's nothing. I don't really hear anything, see anything. It's just the snapper, holder, and ball. You get tunnel vision almost. I don't really hear the crowd or anything. You have to be focused. You can't go out there and take care of a pressure situation without focus. That's really the biggest thing.
Working with someone as talented as Matt Bosher was a learning experience. I learned a lot from him. He's helped me with a lot. We still keep in touch, and that's a friendship I'll probably have for life.
I knew nothing about Miami, nothing about the depth chart, I just came here. When I saw a guy like Bosher ahead of me, I knew it was pretty stiff competition. He was older, he was stronger, he was faster. All of that comes with age. I feel like I've matured tons since I've been here, but that was tough originally, being told you're going to come in and compete right away. I took the best out of it and learned what I could from him.
Looking back at it, I wasn't ready to play when I came in out of high school. I don't think I had one kick ever even close to being blocked before college. Now you've got the best of the best athletes coming around the edge or coming down the middle, and it's a whole new game and takes a lot of practice. It takes a lot of maturity to be able to handle that right out of high school. At the end of the day, it ended up being good for me.
Becoming a man comes from being a student-athlete and being in college, when you're moving half way across the country from home into a different city. It comes from living on your own, taking responsibility, and being a man. When you need help, they don't baby you. It's on you to do it. And it helps you a lot, when you don't have mom or dad or whoever else to be at your side and help you with everything. Coming to college and being a student-athlete is what, in my opinion, develops all of us young men around here.
Life as a student-athlete I'd have to say anyone who says it's not tough is lying to you. Football, prior to college, is a hobby. It's something that you love to do, and that's why you do it. In college, you're an investment, and you have to do what's asked of you -- and then some. All your time goes into it, even when you're not told to do something, you're expected to do stuff on your own time to further better yourself and the team. It takes some adjusting. I was an early graduate out of high school, and I took a quick jump to college. My first semester was pretty tough with 5:30 a.m. workouts, class, lunch, practice. I was expecting everything you hear about college prior to getting there -- fun, games and parties. It was nothing like that, it was a whole new world. Even having been here for three years, I still find some things that are difficult. They're manageable, but they're not getting any easier.
My mom misses me, especially when I came in early, because she wasn't ready for me to leave. When I upped and left, it was pretty quick, because when I was being recruited, they asked if I could graduate early and I just had to take one or two extra classes and I was able to do it. It kind of came out of nowhere, and I just jumped into it. She always says I don't call her enough, but I call when I can. She's become more than just my mom, a couple of my friends on the team make sure they say hello to her, and she's always sending down little goodies, makes her beef jerky. There's a handful of guys on the team who are always looking for Mama Claw's jerky (laughs).
My family tries to come to home games, but the only away game they've been to was at Florida a few years ago and Ohio State last year, because it's a little closer to home. Other than that, they try to come to the home games to get away. Not only do they get to visit their son, but they get to come to Miami, so it's a win-win for them (laughs).
If I wasn't playing football, I would probably be working somewhere. Football's a big reason I even came to college. I didn't have the best of grades and all that stuff coming out of high school, but now I'm here and I'm glad I am. Had I not had sports, I couldn't tell you what I'd be doing. I'd probably be working in some sort of trade, that's real big by me back home. My high school's a big trade school, they had welding, auto maintenance, woodshop, and a lot of classes like that. I'd probably be doing some form of trade work in the city of Chicago.
If I could model myself after anyone, it would be Coach Swasey. He's one of a kind, he's a great person. He has great morals, great ethics, he's just a stand-up guy.
Running through the smoke is one of the greatest experiences you can have. It's such an unbelievable feeling, because you warm up on the field and there aren't that many people in the stands, and you go back into the locker room. When you come out and run through the smoke, you realize how many people have filled the stadium in the time you were gone. You really don't know what to expect, but especially during night games, when you see the smoke, the flashes of cameras, you feel the roar of the ground and it feels like the ground is rumbling. Just unbelievable.
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