When Ethan Wiederkehr reflects back on a storied football career at Shoreham-Wading River, it’ll be the teammates that he remembers the most.
There were plenty of wins, championship banners and trophies to go with all the accomplishments. But mostly, it’ll be the friends and brothers that stand out.
“Definitely the brotherhood we had,” Wiederkehr said. “We definitely had a special bond and I’ll miss that.”
While there have been talented players come through the Shoreham program since its inception in the late ’90s, none of have left the kind of lasting impact on the level of Wiederkehr. A four-year varsity player, he started on both sides of the ball in every game of the Wildcats’ three-year championship run. A dominant force standing 6-foot-6, Wiederkehr could single-handedly disrupt an opposing team’s game plan.
For his efforts in his senior season, Wiederkehr was awarded both the Bob Zellner Award and Rob Burnett Defensive Player of the Year Award at Monday night’s all-county dinner presented by the Suffolk County Football Coaches Association at the Hyatt Regency in Hauppauge. The prestigious Zellner Award is presented to the top lineman in the county. He had been a finalist for the award last year as a junior.
Wiederkehr, who will attend Northwestern University to play football, shared the Burnett Award with Tim Mullane of West Islip. The two players finished in a tie in the voting. Wiederkehr was the first Shoreham player to win one of the top postseason individual awards in Shoreham football history.
“I’m especially happy for Ethan,” said Shoreham coach Matt Millheiser. “Tonight was fitting for him. It kind of polished off a great career with some really true-deserving honors.”
From his first days playing junior varsity as an eighth-grader, the signs were there that Wiederkehr could develop into a special player. His coaches said while he was tall at a young age, it took time for him to fill out his body.
His father, Hans, who served as an assistant coach at Shoreham, said it was during the playoffs in 2014 that he saw him start to blossom.
“He had two great games against John Glenn and Roosevelt and he was only about 215 pounds,” Hans recalled. “I made the film and sent it around and all of a sudden, people are saying ‘Well, who is this kid?’ ”
Wiederkehr jumped from 215 to about 260 pounds within about six months, Hans said.
A lot of that size came from a dedicated workout program. His days would start by attending school, followed by practices and then more individual workouts before returning home around 8 p.m. for dinner, homework and bed.
“I can’t even remember a day we missed,” his dad said. “He never complained — I know he wasn’t happy about it a couple times, but he understood.”
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He also played basketball and lacrosse all while maintaining a stellar academic record. He was one of 11 players recognized as a candidate for the James LaBue Award for outstanding scholar-athlete.
It was his smarts that helped him transform into a great player, specifically on the offensive side, his dad said. In college, he’ll likely play offensive tackle.
“He could be a very good offensive tackle,” Hans said. “Mentality-wise, it’s more of a thinking position and he’s a very smart kid and he reacts real well and makes decisions real quickly on the field.”
Wiederkehr will likely red-shirt for a year at Northwestern. For linemen, it’s rare that a player will see the field as a true freshman. To prepare for the next step, Wiederkehr will skip playing other sports the rest of this year to focus on training. He’ll report to Northwestern in early June.
“I can’t wait to start the new chapter in my life,” he said.
For all of Wiederkehr’s accomplishments in football, it’ll be that college degree that ultimately stands out most for his dad.
“As a father, I can’t tell you how proud I am that he is going to graduate with a degree from Northwestern,” he said.