WESTMONT – Jean Pietrzak was a three-sport standout athlete in high school, but when it came time to continue his career at the collegiate level, he had a choice to make.
The football, basketball and baseball standout at Westmont High School chose to pursue football at the University of St. Francis in Joliet.
“I like football a lot,” Pietrzak said. “Baseball, my arm’s not as great as it used to be, not as strong as it used to be, and basketball, my parents didn’t think I should pursue that.”
In basketball, Pietrzak was a force inside, able to get open on the block and finish with either hand. He also displayed nice touch from the perimeter for a 6-foot-5 player. Pietrzak isn’t completely closing the door on a basketball career.
“[My parents] said it’s up to me as long as I keep my grades up,” Pietrzak said. “I love playing basketball so I think I’m going to look into that down the road.”
North Central College, Lake Forest and Beloit also recruited Pietrzak (NCC and Lake Forest specifically for basketball), but USF was on board nearly a year ago. Pietrzak said the Sentinels attended a 7-on-7 football event at USF last summer during which head coach Joe Curry pitched the idea of Pietrzak playing for the Saints.
This summer, Pietrzak has been working out with his future teammates Tuesdays and Thursdays in preparation for preseason camp Aug. 5. Other days he has been doing speed and agility training at Get Fast in Willowbrook. He said the Saints plan for him to line up at wide receiver. It’s a position he’s used to, but he will be used much differently at USF after coming from Westmont’s run-first option offense.
“It’s going to be a huge switch once I get there,” Pietrzak said. “There are no more option reads. There’s a little of what we did at Westmont, but things are a lot different. They told me I’ll be an outside wide receiver and run a lot of long routes, but it’s still a mystery if I get to start this year or not.”
When he arrives on campus and joins the football team full time, there will be at least one familiar face in the form of Eric Davis, a defensive lineman from Westmont who will be heading into his junior season. Davis and the other veteran players already have helped Pietrzak get acclimated.
“Eric helped me in the decision-making process and he’s helped me at practice, telling me what to do and when to do it,” Pietrzak said. “Guys helped me right off the bat. I missed the first week [of workouts] because I was on vacation, and by the second week they were already running plays. I didn’t know any of the plays or routes, but they helped me out.”
With his days at Westmont in the rearview mirror, Pietrzak has experienced a mixture of melancholy and anticipation.
“It’s been a great four years at Westmont, and if I could, I’d go back and do it again,” Pietrzak said, “but I’m ready for the next step and I want to make it a good one.”