QB focus: faith, family, football

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LEADING THE WAY: Hajicek, a leader on the team, has been starting varsity QB since his junior year. (Photo by Camryn DeVore)

Ryan Choe

Growing up, senior Grant Hajicek attended various Mizzou sporting events. The joy of these games inspired him to participate in athletics, so he quickly signed up to play football, basketball and baseball. Hajicek started football in fourth grade and soon found his niche as a quarterback, an essential position.

Having gained inspiration from watching players like Chase Daniel, the Mizzou quarterback from 2005-08, Hajicek decided to play the position. Behind only the head coach and offensive coordinator, the quarterback is the field general and offensive maestro.

Hajicek’s journey to starting varsity quarterback tested his patience. For two years Hajicek waited his turn behind Trevor Twehous, who held the position from 2016-17, leading the junior varsity football team his sophomore year. Then, in his junior year, Hajicek’s era as starter began.

Head Coach Van Vanatta said he is proud of the way Hajicek has grown these past three years during their time together.

“I think Grant has a really strong head on his shoulders,” Vanatta said. “[Everyone] has mental mistakes that they make, but Grant takes care of business. He does well in the classroom [and] he’s a good role model in the school. As a quarterback, that’s something you need. He handles himself so well in all aspects of his life.”

Hajicek said he appreciates the growing responsibility Vanatta has given him over the years. From Hajicek’s sophomore to senior year, Vanatta said he trusted him because of how he matured into a better and more accountable leader. More than anything, Hajicek believes Vanatta helped him develop not only as an athlete, but also as a person.

“[Coach Vanatta] helped me with the mental aspect of the game a lot,” Hajicek said. “He’s very encouraging but also continues to push me. . . I try to soak up as much knowledge from him as I can.”

Hajicek tries to carry over all the lessons he has learned from athletics into his personal life. Because of the enormous responsibility surrounding football on his shoulders, Hajicek’s schedule demands discipline. During football season, he practices Monday through Thursday from 4:20-7:30 p.m. with games on Fridays.

“I [try] to use my AUTs pretty efficiently,” Hajicek said. “I have an extra one because I take a zero hour strength training class. I’ll [study] at the library or at my desk at home most often.”

One way Hajicek is able to balance athletics and academics is through his self-discipline, something he attributes to his deep religious faith. Growing up in a Christian household, Hajicek said being a devout Christian athlete became paramount in his life.

“I really liked watching Tim Tebow,” Hajicek said. “He was a great player and lived out his faith through football, which was something I [wanted] to do.

”Tebow was the quarterback for the University of Florida from 2006-09. Like Hajicek, Tebow was a committed Christian athlete. Hajicek said he is lucky to have physics teacher Travis Gabel help him strengthen the religious part of his life at school. Gabel is one of the sponsors for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at RBHS. Over the years, Gabel has established a meaningful relationship with Hajicek.

“I first met Grant when he attended his older brother’s basketball games as a middle schooler,” Gabel said. “He has always been a very kind and respectful young man who has a level head. Our relationship has grown very strong over the years of me coaching him and [through] our interactions on the FCA leadership team.”

Gabel said he is always impressed with Hajicek’s broad view of life. Although Hajicek is a prominent leader among his peers, Gabel respects how Hajicek maintains a humble mindset.

“Last year, Grant was the quarterback on the football team and during the basketball season he didn’t get many varsity minutes; however, he consistently could be seen giving out cups of water to his teammates,” Gabel said. “It just shows the kind of guy he is, doing whatever it takes for his teammates.”
Throughout Hajicek’s constantly busy life, he feels Gabel is a steady helping hand. Gabel, however, credits Hajicek for the influence Hajicek has had on him.

“Grant has made an impact on me by the way he carries himself,” Gabel said. “It is very cool to see a guy who loves two sports and has not given up on one of them. He is a leader in both sports, and it has been very cool to see how he has been a leader in different ways on each team. It is also very cool to see how he tries to play his sports with his faith as [his] number one priority.”

With scholarship offers from Quincy University and Butler University, Hajicek is looking forward to the future. But for now, he is focused on finishing his high school football career on a high note.

“The process [has been] fun, and I’ve enjoyed visiting different places this past spring and summer and seeing what practice and life will be like at the next level, but I try not to worry about recruiting during the season,” Hajicek said. “I hope people remember me for the person I am off the field. Obviously, [my] goal is to win a state championship, but I want people to think I was a good [and devout] Christian football player that always played hard and played for his teammates.”

Which student-athlete should the staff interview next? Let us know in the comments below.