All eyes focused on Ethan Wiederkehr.
The 6-6, 285-pound Shoreham-Wading River junior lineman has grown accustomed to receiving attention — from fans, opponents’ game plans and the dozens of college football programs that have recruited him.
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But at the time, Wiederkehr was a 180-pound freshman surrounded by upperclassmen at Long Island’s high school combine. He was alone, lying on a bench with a 185-pound bar racked above his head. He had seen his peers pump 10, 15, even 20 reps, and now it was his turn.
Wiederkehr gripped the bar. He flexed his chest, pushed up and began the exercise known as the bench press. Only, Wiederkehr barely got past the beginning. He completed just one rep.
“I think after that freshman year, I realized I needed to work harder because I wanted to be like the older kids,” Wiederkehr said. “It helped me see my future and dreams.”
Those dreams include playing football in college and the NFL, and Wiederkehr is on the path toward achieving at least the former. Hans Wiederkehr, Ethan’s father, a SWR assistant coach and one of the combine’s directors, said that 18 schools from conferences as notable as the Big Ten and ACC have offered scholarships to his son.
But even with the opportunity to commit to a Division I-AA program now, Wiederkehr has elected to participate in this year’s combine. The Suffolk County Football Coaches Association will host the event for blue chip prospects on May 1 at Sachem North.
“I just like the aspect of competing with all the other Long Island kids there,” he said.
Other notable early registrants include Westhampton’s Dylan Laube, Babylon’s Kenny Rohl, Kings Park’s Matthew Estherson and Smithtown West’s Andrew Sheahan.
Sayville standout quarterback and Wisconsin commit Jack Coan has not registered.
Cost of attendance is $115, and student-athletes can participate in either a 9 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. session. Registration is open at www.bluechipprospects.com. In addition to the 185-pound press, participants will receive official marks in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, standing broad jump and 20-yard shuttle.
“Everything’s filmed,” Hans Wiederkehr said, “and now when the school comes to recruit in the fall, the kid has legitimate times.”
Participants also will receive training advice from Revolution Athletics founder Justin Kull and finish each session with a coaching clinic.
The top performers will be invited to the state’s elite combine, which will be held July 10 at Ithaca College.
Wiederkehr can’t predict the numbers he’ll post. But he expects to complete more than one rep on the bench press.
“I looked up to the older kids,” Wiederkehr said. “I hope some of the younger kids look up to me and say, ‘I want to get there.’”