Leadership carries over from the gridiron

MENASHA — The 2013 Menasha High School football team enjoyed the most successful season in program history, but what Nick Siegel and his fellow team captains displayed off the field is equally as impressive.

 Zac Brownie is joined by Alex Reiter, left, Dom Hillesheim, Riley Wittmann, Alex Zelinski, Nick Siegel, Keenan Heidemann and Carter Tesch at the three-on-three basketball tournament organized by the Menasha football captains, which raised $6,200 in support of Brownie and his family. (Submitted Photo | For The Compass)


Zac Brownie is joined by Alex Reiter, left, Dom Hillesheim, Riley Wittmann, Alex Zelinski, Nick Siegel, Keenan Heidemann and Carter Tesch at the three-on-three basketball tournament organized by the Menasha football captains, which raised $6,200 in support of Brownie and his family. (Submitted Photo | For The Compass)

The team leaders rallied the student body and the community to hold a three-on-three basketball tournament on Jan. 25 at St. John Church. The event, which included raffles and concessions, raised $6,200 to support Zac Brownie, a sophomore at Menasha High who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

“We always play basketball (at St. John) because I work there in the summer,” said Siegel, an all-conference fullback for the Blue Jays. “We know what (Zac) is going through and we thought we could raise money for him.”

Brownie connected with the team during the season. He served as an honorary captain for the homecoming game, a 45-7 victory over Oshkosh West.

“(Zac) had a good time,” said Siegel. “He got to lead us in the homecoming parade. He led the whole football team.”

“We spent more time with him and got closer,” said Carter Tesch, a senior safety and fellow captain.

Siegel, who will study cross media graphics management and play football at UW-Stout, wrote a letter to explain the benefit tourney and seek item donations for the raffle.

“We went out for two weeks, every other day,” he said. “We went to companies and brought the letter and asked if they would donate something for the basket raffle. There were five or six guys. We had 45 baskets with some nice items, including Badger tickets.”

Ten teams played in the tournament.

“We knew we would get most of the high school guys who don’t already play basketball and we knew we could get some teams from other schools through friends that we know,” said Tesch, who will study chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin. “Members of the boys and girls basketball teams volunteered to officiate.”

The parish supported the event by donating two baskets. Several parish members showed up after Mass to buy food. More than 500 people attended throughout the day.

The highlight of the event was seeing Zac and his family at the tournament, said Siegel, an altar server at St. John.

“They were there the whole time,” he said. “He took pictures with all the teams. We had sumo wrestling suits and his dad (Joel) won that. We made out a big check and gave it to them at the closing ceremony.”

“His mom (Dorinda) was giving us hugs and was really thankful,” said Tesch.

“We had a blast watching basketball and seeing Zac interacting with everyone,” said Joel. “(Zac) is now a big man on campus. He sees a lot of the guys and they always ask how he’s doing. That’s important. He was talking about dropping out of school when he turned 16. They’ve given him hope to keep on going. He’s enjoying himself at school now.”

“(Zac) was at our last school dance,” said Siegel. “That was really cool.”

The athletes have gained perspective from their honorary captain.

“We definitely take things for granted,” said Tesch. “What he’s going through makes you realize that everyone isn’t as fortunate.”

They also felt a connection with Zac as an underdog. Menasha was a fifth seed entering the WIAA Division 2 playoffs. The Blue Jays defeated fourth-seeded Green Bay Southwest 20-7 in the opening round. Two playoff victories followed over undefeated conference champions — 42-22 over Ashwaubenon and 14-7 over Hortonville — to reach the state semifinals.

“They (WIAA) didn’t show us any respect,” said Tesch. “We had to prove ourselves.”

“‘Shock the world,’ was our motto,” said Siegel. “We advanced farther than any other (Menasha) team.”

Coming together to organize the tournament was an example of the camaraderie on the team, he added.

“We like to call ourselves a football family,” said Siegel.

Some juniors have discussed planning a tournament for next year. Joel said that the money raised from this year’s event will help the family with expenses.

“We can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for our son and for our family,” he said. “How many young men would go out and do something like this? They mean the world to us and always will.”