MANITOWOC — Pre-game Preparation for the Roncalli football team included gathering in the school chapel. Following prayer, the coaches addressed the players before turning the floor over to the team captains. Senior linebacker/fullback Alex Deets embraced the opportunity.
“I always tried to make my speeches as inspiring as possible,” he said. “Then when we got off the bus to step on the field, I tried to get the guys pumped up. That was my thing. I kind of yelled at the guys. I like being energetic. You have to be vocal and energetic at the same time. You can’t be one or the other.”
Deets’ energy carried over to the games. This past season he recorded 45 solo tackles including four tackles for loss, 28 assists, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. During the conference season, Roncalli’s defense recorded five shutouts and allowed only six touchdowns. Deets was honored as the Olympian/Packerland Large Conference defensive player of the year and a unanimous first team all-conference selection.
“He not only played with great intensity,” said Roncalli head coach Ray Baranczyk, “Alex elevated the intensity of his teammates as well as motivating the coaching staff to help ensure his and the team’s success.”
Not bad for a player dealing with a torn labrum which will require surgery. Deets said that he hurt his shoulder in the team’s first scrimmage and that the injury got worse throughout the season.
“In the playoff game against Little Chute, it tore pretty badly,” he said. “Right away I thought, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to come back.’ I played with one arm the rest of the way. I got it taped up and wore a shoulder brace. The doctor said, ‘If you can play through it and the pain is not too great, you can do it.’”
The choice to play, approved by his parents, was an easy one for Deets, described by Baranczyk as “one of the most courageous athletes whom I have coached.”
“I didn’t want to leave my guys hanging,” said Deets, who also served as the team’s long-snapper. “There’s only so much high school football you get to play.”
He credits his success at linebacker to good anticipation, his ability to read the offense and trust in the other defensive players.
Deets also contributed on offense for the Jets carrying the ball 111 times for 600 yards and serving as a lead blocker.
“I like to think of myself as another lineman,” he said. “When we ran our power play, it was a team effort. Our lineman did a great job all year. They were probably a little undersized compared to other teams, but they played really well.”
Led by its strong senior class, Roncalli won the conference championship with an undefeated regular season. The Jets, 12-1 overall, won three playoff games before falling to Platteville 22-15 in a WIAA division 4 semifinal. Unfortunately, Deets broke his wrist in the final game. Despite the letdown of the season’s end, Deets, who was named all-region and honorable mention all-state by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association, said he would not trade the experience.
“You have the memories of being together with the guys for so many months,” he said. “I’ve been playing with most of these guys since fifth grade. It’s been a fun experience developing and growing as players. I couldn’t be more proud of my guys. I would give up all the individual awards in the world to play one more down with them. It’s been a great honor to play with these guys. I would do anything for them. I love them, so it’s really great.”
Deets, who plans to continue his education at Marquette University, the University of Wisconsin or St. Norbert College, also plays basketball for Roncalli, is a member of the National Honor Society, serves as a math tutor and participates in service projects through Roncalli Lasallian Youth.
“I was going to play golf in the spring, but shoulder surgery is going to be a five-month recovery,” he said. “Hopefully I can push through in basketball, but there are no guarantees. All I can do is pray.”
Deets will miss the first part of the basketball season due to his wrist injury. When he returns, he will wear a harness to protect his injured shoulder. Sitting out is especially difficult for an athlete with so much energy.
“I will be the guy on the end of the bench who everyone is annoyed by,” he said. “Most of the guys who play basketball played football so that leadership transfers over to the other sport.”
Deets served as a vocal leader on the gridiron, but he also hopes that he led by example.
“It doesn’t matter if they remember me as a good player or not,” he said. “I just wanted to be one of those guys that when people look back upon this season, they say that he gave it his all.”