Game Recognize Game: Neumann-Goretti High School’s Brett Kwoka is our December Athlete of the Month

Game Recognize Game: Neumann-Goretti High School’s Brett Kwoka is our December Athlete of the Month

Each month Eastbay is highlighting a top high school athlete by spotlighting their accomplishments both in and outside the game. This month’s winner is senior Brett Kwoka from Saints Neumann Goretti High School in Philadelphia. Brett was nominated by his football coaches for his allaround excellence and leadership both in and outside the game.

“Brett has been the heart and soul of our team this season. Since joining our team and from day one, he has been a leader on and off the field. Brett is a prime example of what a student athlete is all about. He has a 3.55 GPA and was voted 1st Team All Catholic for Offense and Defense.” – Coach Barnes,  Saints Neumann Goretti High School football

Here’s what Brett had to say about what it takes to be a successfull player, student, and leader:

What is your definition of a successful student athlete?

To me, a successful student athlete is somebody that shows excellence both on and off the field, like maintaining A’s and B’s in the classroom, not getting in trouble much, and trying to be a good role model for the community. And then on the field, somebody who’s a leader who dominates with their athletic ability and with their personality.

As a football player and wrestler, what benefits do you see to being a multi-sport athlete?

Wrestling really translates to football, and it’s been a great experience for me to do both. I’ve seen success in both sports because of the skills that help each other out. Wrestling helps maintain my balance, handwork – since I’m a defensive lineman – so it helps with me working on staying lower than my opponent.

What has been the highlight of your athletic career so far and what makes that moment stand out for you?

The highlight of my athletic career was actually this year! I haven’t played offensive line since I was in middle school, but my coach needed an offensive tackle and I said, “Sure, Coach! I can do it for the team.” I went in not expecting much, really, and I got First Team All Catholic, I was dominant on both sides of the football, and it was a cool way to end my high school career.

What was the most challenging part of picking up that position again after so long?

The plays, the timing, just working with my quarterback. I have a very mobile quarterback, so just the timing of when he wants to run out of the pocket and where I have to push the offensive linemen or how I have to really set the pocket. It was fun, but it was definitely a challenge relearning something I haven’t played for four years.

What do you love most about competing?

I like looking across the line of scrimmage and just knowing that the guy in front of me can’t stop me, can’t get by me, can’t block me. I like dominating on both sides of the ball no matter what. That’s why I love competing.

That’s a little different than when you’re wrestling – what’s that change in mindset like for you?

Well the mindset for football is, I do really want to be the best player on the field, but I don’t always have to be. I have teammates I can rely on – especially this year, I had really great teammates who, if I made a mistake, they would make it up for me. But in wrestling, it’s you vs. another guy. It’s one-on-one and everyone’s looking at you. If you mess up, it’s done. You have no one to fall back on or rely on. You either go home or you win in wrestling.

Who would you say is your role model in athletics?

I have two. Aaron Donald and Shaquil Barrett. Out of high school those guys weren’t very heavily recruited. They were a bit undersized like myself, there were a lot of people saying they couldn’t do it, and they found a school that believed in them and they went on to have great professional careers, just proving everybody wrong.

How important is it to you to be a role model for younger athletes who are coming up?

Oh, it’s very important for me. It’s like my driving goal. I don’t really go out to parties, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I try to give kids rides to and from practice, or back to their homes from school. I just try to be a positive role model in any of my teammates’, opponents’, anybody’s lives. When you’re a good football player, a lot of people have eyes on you, and they always want to look up to you. They’re always trying to look for you to be a larger-than-life human being – to be perfect – and a lot of times people fail at that. But I feel like it’s very important for us to try to be positive and try to help bring up these kids, because they’re the next generation of players and they learn from our mistakes.

Jalen Hurts recently came out and spent some time with your team. Can you tell me a little bit about what that was like for you?

That was an awesome experience. I mean, that guy’s day is massively busy, probably with deals and working out and training and practicing and film. And it was just cool for him to take time out of his day to give back to the community, which is really important, especially for me. Like we were talking about, he’s a role model and is trying to be a positive influence in the community and give back to the city he plays for. So, it’s really cool to see him interacting with us and talking with us, he asked questions and seemed like he genuinely cared about what we played, how we’re doing, things like that.

I know he spoke with you guys a little bit about the different types of adversity you face in or out of season. How do you handle adversity like that in the game? And what do you think is the best way to kind of overcome that?

You just gotta keep your head up. You just gotta keep moving forward, because the worst thing you can do when you’re facing adversity is to stop and drop your head. It’s really easy just to fall back and say, ‘Why me, why this? Why is it happening to me? Why can’t it be someone else?’ But the real question is, “Why not me? Why should it be somebody else?’

Adversity is put in front of me so I can get over it and be better. No truly successful person had an easy life. Everybody who’s successful had a ton of adversity in front of them. If you ask any professional athlete. Any successful businessman. Anybody who’s successful ever.

They always had a mountain to climb.

So, I think adversity is not something we should look at as negative, but positive. Because it’s forcing you to change, forcing you to be better.

I handle it by knowing you just gotta get through it no matter how tough it is. You just gotta keep your head up and keep moving forward, no matter how tough it gets.

So, when we spoke to Coach Barnes, he told us that you have been kind of the heart of your team. What does that mean to you? Is it leading by example? Is it doing what you can to lift up other players around you who are also maybe going through some adversity?

It just really comes naturally to me because I feel like I can relate to a lot of my teammates. Even if they’re going through something I can’t relate to, at the end of the day we’re both football players, so that’s something that we can both relate to on any level. If you’re having a problem at home, if you’re having a problem with your girlfriend, if you’re having a problem with anything or with anybody, you can come onto the football field and you can just forget about all that. And that’s something that I tried to reinforce with all of my teammates.

You come onto the football field, we forget about our worries, and after practice we can talk about it. I can give you a ride home. I could give you some help. I just try to be a positive influence in any of my teammates’ lives.

Do you think there are lessons from the game that will go on to help you face adversity in your life outside of football?

Yeah, there are a ton of lessons in football. You gotta learn how to lose in football. That’s the number one thing. There’s nobody who goes undefeated their entire life. You gotta know how to take a loss like a man and you have to know how to overcome adversity. I mean, we’ve had two comeback games this season that helped teach us that we have to overcome adversity.

And we have to be able to take a loss and to get better from it. Look at the film, reflect on what we did wrong, and keep moving.

What are some of the goals that you would like to accomplish after high school?

I would love to have a successful college career – hopefully win a few Bowl Games, have my school get into the playoffs with deep postseason runs, and get a National Championship. After that, if I’m able to, I’d love to play a professional career. And if I can’t, I would to take over my mom’s business. She’s a financial advisor, and I’m really interested in finance and economics. My parents and coaches have been really adamant about me having a backup plan just in case I get hurt or in case everything doesn’t pan out. I have to have a backup plan to fall on. They said it’s great that I have a dream of playing professional football, but it doesn’t always happen.

What are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to continuing my athletic career – I just can’t wait to take that next step. I’m very excited to start the college process, commit to a college, find a home for the next four years, and then hopefully go pro.

 

 

 

To nominate a deserving athlete for Eastbay’s Game Recognize Game series, fill out the form here.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram @officialeastbay and @eastbaywomen

Game Recognize Game: Forest Hills High School’s Brady Christ is our October Winner

Game Recognize Game: Forest Hills High School’s Brady Christ is our October Winner

Each month Eastbay is highlighting a top high school athlete by spotlighting their accomplishments both in and outside the game. This month’s winner is senior Brady Christ from Forest Hills High School in Pennsylvania.

An all-around athlete, Brady is a two-year letterman who also competes in powerlifting and track & field while remaining active in his school community. He’s a member of the ski and media clubs, holds down a 3.4 GPA, and is a four-year PA Bronze Academic Award winner.

For Brady, football is more than a game. It’s all about the family, friendships, and character building that come with working hard to reach your goals. Here’s what Brady had to say about being a role model for younger athletes, the joy of competing, and his future aspirations:

What is your definition of a successful student-athlete?

My definition would be a student who balances being a successful athlete while also succeeding in the classroom and makes a healthy impact in their school community.

What has been the highlight of your athletic career so far, and what makes that moment stand out for you?

My highlight has been my defensive playing this year. I have two interceptions and there are still games to play.

Who is your role model in athletics?

My role model is Jalen Ramsey.

How important is it to you to be a role model for younger athletes?

It’s very important. When I was younger, I was raised up by older athletes who guided me down the right paths. I wish to continue that tradition and be a positive influence.

What do you love most about competing?

I love expressing all the hard work and effort I’ve put in. Getting to show that I’ve worked harder and I’ve become a better athlete is easily the best part.

What are some of the goals you’d like to achieve after high school, and what are you most looking forward to?

I’d love to be able to coach a team or be an athletic trainer for a team. Later on, raise a family and so forth.

To nominate a deserving athlete for Eastbay’s Game Recognize Game series, fill out the form here.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram @officialeastbay and @eastbaywomen

Game Recognize Game: Richland High School’s Griffin LaRue is our September Winner

Game Recognize Game: Richland High School’s Griffin LaRue is our September Winner

Each month Eastbay is highlighting a top high school athlete by spotlighting their accomplishments both in and outside the game. This month’s winner is All State wide receiver Griffin LaRue from Richland High School in Johnstown, PA.

For Griffin, football is more than a game – it’s everything to him. And he backs that up with hard work and dedication. Now in his last year at Richland High, Griffin is getting ready to take his game to the next level, and he can’t wait to see what happens next. Here’s what he told us about being the thrill of competing, being a role model, and what he hopes for the future:

What is your definition of a successful student-athlete?

My definition of a successful student-athlete is a student who can excel in the classroom day in and day out, and still achieve all their goals and dreams on field.

What has been the highlight of your athletic career so far, and what makes that moment stand out for you?

I would say the highlight of my athletic career so far is definitely my first offer.  That moment gave me indescribable happiness!

Who is your role model in athletics?

My role model would definitely have to be LaRod Stephens-Howling.  Growing up and playing football in the same town in the same city as I am currently and still making it to the league and winning a Super Bowl is beyond crazy and inspiring to me.

How important is it to you to be a role model for younger athletes?

It’s extremely important to me, especially with me having two younger siblings that look up to everything I do and take after me.  Growing up with two older brothers, I always looked up to them and followed in their footsteps, and I want to guide my younger siblings and young student-athletes in the correct direction.

What do you love most about competing?

What I love most about competing is the intensity.  When I line up across from someone, I think in my head “It’s my family vs. their’s” and I’ll choose mine any day of the year.

What are some of the goals you’d like to achieve after high school, and what are you most looking forward to?

My biggest out-of-this-world goal is to someday have a gold jacket on, but that’s me shooting for the stars. But I truly just want to be different and make a name for myself and to prove everyone that doubted me wrong.  One thing I’m extremely excited for and looking forward to is just going to college in general.  I feel like college will be a whole new world for me, and especially with football on top of it I feel I will learn so much.

 

To nominate a deserving athlete for Eastbay’s Game Recognize Game series, fill out the form here.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram @officialeastbay and @eastbaywomen

Game Recognize Game: Coppell High School’s Malkam Wallace is our July Winner

Game Recognize Game: Coppell High School’s Malkam Wallace is our July Winner

Each month Eastbay is highlighting a top high school athlete by spotlighting their accomplishments both in and outside the game. This month’s winner is football and lacrosse player Malkam Wallace from Coppell High School in Texas.

One of three sophomores selected for Coppell’s varsity lacrosse team, Malkam knows how to step up and perform under pressure. He played a key defensive role in the team’s successful run to the THSLL Class A State Championship this past season while also earning a 3.78 GPA and logging community service hours through Coppell’s chapter of the Young Men’s Service League.

In addition to dominating on the lacrosse field and in the classroom – Malkam appeared on the A/B Honor roll last year and has been invited to the National Society of High School Scholars – Malkam also plays football. This fall, he’ll move up from JV and take a running back slot on Coppell’s varsity squad.

Here’s what Malkam had to say about his love for lacrosse, giving back to his community, and his plans for the future:

What’s your definition of a successful student-athlete?

For me, success as a student athlete is getting better each day and competing to be the best version of myself. I always try to improve, no matter what it is, be it football or lacrosse or just sports in general.

How did you first get into playing lacrosse?

My mom actually put me in when I was young. I think fourth grade is when I started playing, and since then I’ve loved the sport and stuck with it. I love how fast it is, the aspect that anything can change.

What was it like for you to be one of the younger players to make varsity?

It was exciting. It was me and I think two other guys as the young kids on varsity. It was a welcoming experience. I learned a lot from the older guys, so going into the future I’ll be able to pass down those skills and help younger players.

What benefits do you see in being a multi-sport athlete?

Being a multi-sport athlete is very beneficial to each game.Playing multiple sports develops different skills that impact more than your game. It impacts your skills outside the field and how you see each sport.

What has been the highlight of your athletic career so far?

Just recently, in my sophomore year, our varsity lacrosse team won our State Championship. We’re the THSLL Class A division. So, it was a great experience and being able to be with the guys and winning a State Championship was amazing.

Who is your role model in athletics?

I take a lot of inspiration from Jim Brown because he kind of reminds me of myself. He played football and lacrosse professionally and he wore number 32, as well.

What do you love most about competing?

What I love most about competition is that it motivates me to be better. I don’t like losing in general, so I think when I compete against people, it drives me to be a better athlete and win. I just love competing against others.

What are some of the goals you’d like to achieve after high school?

My main goal would be to make it to the next level – to receive an athletic scholarship to either play football or lacrosse. Getting there is gonna be a grind, I know that for sure. I know it won’t be easy. I’m not the biggest kid on the field, so I know I have to put a lot of work in, just keep my head down, and grind.

Can you tell me a little about your community service through the Young Men’s Service League?

The service league is a mom and son’s league where all the families come together to do service for communities in need. Recently, I helped build ramps for people with disabilities who needed help accessing their houses. And we’ll do things like helping special needs kids who just want to enjoy water parks or skate parks, just helping them go to those areas and have fun.

I love the feeling that I can personally be part of a bigger picture, that I’m putting something into the world and helping people who really need it.

 

 

To nominate a deserving athlete for Eastbay’s Game Recognize Game series, fill out the form here.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram @officialeastbay and @eastbaywomen

 

Game Recognize Game: Foundation Academy’s Danny Stutsman is our April Winner

Game Recognize Game: Foundation Academy’s Danny Stutsman is our April Winner

Each month Eastbay is highlighting a top high school athlete by spotlighting their accomplishments both in and outside the game. This month’s winner is standout linebacker Danny Stutsman from Foundation Academy in central Florida.

A threat on both sides of the ball, Danny knows that to win games, you have to be just as dedicated off the field as you are on Friday nights. In his senior season, Danny worked alongside his team and led Foundation Academy to its first Regional Championship and State Semi Final.

Through eight games that season, Danny tallied:

On Offense

  • 64 carries for 548 yards
  • 10 rushing TDs
  • 25 catches for 542 yards
  • 21 yards per catch
  • 7 receiving touchdowns

On Defense

  • 52 solo tackles
  • 11 tackles for loss
  • 5 sacks
  • 2 forced fumbles
  • 2 interception returns for touchdowns
  • 4 pass deflections
  • 1 blocked punt

And that was just the regular season. In the playoffs, Danny racked up 164 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Regional Semi Final, 151 rushing yards, 1 touchdown, 11 tackles, and 1 sack in the Regional Finals, and 9 tackles and 1 receiving touchdown in the State Semi Final against Victory Christian.

It’s a high school career full of performances like these that helped Danny make First Team All State in 2018 and 2019 and 2A Defensive Player of the Year in 2020. His proven football IQ and 3.8 GPA garnered Danny over 25 Division 1 scholarship offers before he committed to University of Oklahoma.

Danny was nominated for Game Recognize Game by Brad Lord, his head football coach at Foundation Academy and someone who’s seen first hand what an asset Danny is on the field.

Here’s what Danny had to say about competition, leadership, and playing college ball:

What is your definition of a successful student-athlete?

Utilizing lessons that I have learned in the classroom to transcend onto the athletic field. Also being able to balance the responsibilities a full-time student has while also managing the schedule of full-time athlete.

What has been the highlight of your athletic career so far?

While my acceptance into the University of Oklahoma and earning an athletic scholarship has been a memorable moment in my career, I would also add being able to lead my high school team, Foundation Academy, to a regional championship for the first time in the school’s history has been meaningful in so many ways.

Who is your role model in athletics?

I’d say one of my idols in athletics itself is Michael Jordan. Although he’s a basketball player, his tenacity to always be the best player on the court and off has motivated me tremendously, and his constant desire to always compete no matter the circumstances has always made me push my game to the next level. Also, most importantly, Jordan’s ability to lead a team and motivate the players around him is something I try to take out of his game.

What do you love most about competing?

What I love most about competing is the constant drive to be the best. Competing is so much more than just in-between the whistles on the football field. It is also during your off time competing against yourself and seeing how hard you can push yourself every day to be the best possible player and person.

What are some of the goals you’d like to achieve after high school?

Some goals that I would like to achieve after high school would be to make an impact at Oklahoma as soon as I arrive, as well as seize the opportunity I am given by pursuing my college education.

 

To nominate a deserving athlete for Eastbay’s Game Recognize Game series, fill out the form here.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram @officialeastbay and @eastbaywomen