During his 16 years as the coach of the New Lenox Mustangs 10-year-old football team, Pat Athans always would give the players a chance to kick field goals before the start of each season.
Only one was ever successful.
“Jake (Wieclaw) was the first player to kick a field goal for me, and he was the last one,” said Athans, whose final season with the Mustangs was last season. “It’s hard to find a kid at that age that can kick. He kicked a 26-yard field goal and I said, ‘Well, the rest of you guys better find something else to do because we have our kicker.’ It’s pretty cool to see what he’s doing now.”
Wieclaw remembers his first tryout as a youngster.
“I had never kicked before,” Wieclaw said. “Coach asked if anyone can kick the ball? The first few kids tried and weren’t very good. I said, ‘Let me give it a shot.’ I ended up kicking a field goal and (Athans’) eyes lit up.”
Wieclaw also was a standout soccer player, starting when he was 7 and playing with the Chicago Magic until he was a sophomore in high school.
His brother Matt was a soccer star at Lincoln-Way Central and played at Western Illinois.
“I grew up playing soccer and football,” Jake Wieclaw said. “I started playing both in high school, but then I had to commit to one or the other. I didn’t want to bounce around and miss one sport for the other. I looked up to my older brother, and he went the soccer route. I saw how his college career went, and I decided I wanted to do something different.”
Wieclaw’s parents, Scott and Theresa, have been to every Miami game this season.
“His dad and I always supported our sons in whatever they wanted to play,” Theresa Wieclaw said. “It was their drive and ambition that got them where they got. They worked hard to get where they did, and all we did was put many miles on the car driving them all over the place.
"Jake’s brother is five years older than him and he’d play against Matt and his friends all the time. He was always very competitive. It’s been exciting watching him in college.”