Each week, former Madison La Follette and University of Wisconsin long-snapper Kyle Wojta will share his thoughts as he auditions for a shot at the NFL, likely as an undrafted free agent.
If you read my journal last week you probably understand how much playing for the Badgers did, and has, meant to me. I dreamed about playing football for the Badgers for as long as I can remember so I am truly blessed and grateful that I was able to be a part of the team. I also understand that there are hundreds of thousands of other children and young men in Wisconsin, and around the country, that would give anything to have the opportunity that I was given to play for Wisconsin. Knowing this, I did my best to not take any second I spent with the Badgers football team for granted. In this journal entry I will discuss my high school football career and how fortunate I was to be put in certain situations to get to where I am today.
My freshman year at Madison La Follette High School was a new stage in my football career. At least I thought it was. See, I played tight end for the Eastside Sharks but I always aspired and dreamed about being a quarterback (just as most kids do). Little did I know that I would end up being much more successful at the same position I played while with the Eastside Sharks. I have always loved being a leader and motivating my teammates and I knew that quarterback was the best role for those characteristics. So the moment I set foot on the practice fields at La Follette I was motivated to be a successful quarterback, and things started out that way. I was not a star player by any means but I was fortunate enough to have moderate success as a quarterback my freshman and sophomore seasons. I was even fortunate enough to get some playing time on the varsity team my sophomore year when the starting quarterback was injured.
After putting together two pretty successful seasons, I was pretty confident that I had the ability to compete for the starting quarterback job going into my junior year. I worked as hard as I possibly could that offseason to win the starting spot, but unfortunately for yours truly I was unable to beat out the returning quarterback. That same year we hired a new head coach, Chad Wiese, who introduced the "pro style" offense to La Follette, and let's just say that the "pro style" offense wasn't really my forte. I was more familiar with the "Wing T" offense and shotgun formations but I was never that good at passing in the pocket from under center. Looking back, I remember how upset and depressed I was that I was unable to be the starting quarterback, but now I realize I was lucky. If I would have played quarterback I definitely would never have tried long-snapping and then, for obvious reasons, would never have lived my dream by playing for the Badgers. Needless to say, at the time I was pretty upset.
About a week and a half before our first game my junior year, our starting tight end, Derek Klavas (a good buddy of mine), broke his foot and was unable to play for a while. At the next practice, Coach Wiese asked if I would step in and take over the role. Little did I know, that conversation would change my life forever and allow me to be a Badger. I remember it like it was yesterday. Coach walked up to me before practice and said, "Hey, Wojta. let's go talk." So I walked over to him and we progressed into his little coach's office next to the weight room. He said, "Wojta, I know your heart is at quarterback but we need a tight end since Klavas can't go. You're athletic and I don't want to leave you on the sidelines so I think you should give it a shot. Plus, I guarantee you that if you play tight end you will be all-conference." He was right, my heart was at quarterback, but I wanted to be on the field and wanted to contribute to the team anyway I could. Plus, the idea of being all-conference as a junior was intriguing, so I decided to make the switch to tight end.
The next practice another very fortunate event happened that I am now very grateful for. Right before practice our special teams coach came up to me and said, "Hey, Wojta. Now that you are playing tight end, why don't you give long-snapping a shot because we don't have one right now." I said, "Sure! Why not?" It turns out that I was a natural at snapping, but never really thought much of it then.
My junior and senior seasons were very successful at tight end, thanks to some good passes by quarterbacks Josh Showers and Steve Chapiewsky, and some good blocking by our offensive line. In those two seasons I caught over fifty passes and also had a couple touchdowns. My senior year I was even lucky enough to play quarterback for a few games and our team was able to reach the playoffs for the first time in a few years. And, as Coach Wiese promised, I was fortunate enough to be all-conference those two years, and also all-area my senior season.
Looking back, it is crazy to think about where I would be or what would have happened if events hadn't unfolded the way they did. There were so many things that had to happen in order for me to live my dream by playing for Wisconsin and I am so very thankful and fortunate that they did. I may never have played tight end if my buddy Derek Klavas hadn't broken his toe. And if I didn't play tight end, I never would have started snapping and never would have been a Badger. It just goes to show that you have to take every opportunity that is thrown at you and give it your best effort. All I wanted to do was help contribute to our team, and through hard work and dedication (and some luck along the way) I was able to live my dream.
The last thing I would like to do is thank all my coaches and teachers that I was blessed to learn from and be in contact with throughout high school -- from my freshman and sophomore coaches, Terry Fargen and Randy Helgerson, to Coach Wiese and all the assistant coaches in between. All of you played some role in molding me into the man I am today and I am grateful and fortunate that all of you were a part of my life!
Next week I will discuss my experiences with the recruiting process and how was able to live my dream as a Badger.
Until next week ...