Junior Ethan Wiederkehr will be a Wildcat of a different color. The hulking 6-6, 285-pound two-way lineman from Shoreham-Wading River has made a verbal commitment to accept a full football scholarship to attend Northwestern and will sign his letter of intent Feb. 3.
Wiederkehr had pared his final college choices to Northwestern, Maryland, Navy and Boston College. At 7:35 Monday night, sitting in the family room in his Wading River home, he called Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald to share his decision.
Once Wiederkehr finishes his senior season, he will trade his gold and blue at Shoreham-Wading River, where he has earned two Long Island Class IV football championships and All-Long Island status, for the purple, black and white of Northwestern.
“It’s the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication to the sport and his dreams,” said his father, Hans Wiederkehr, who played at Syracuse and signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent in 1986. “I watched my son go through the process with dignity and with a determination to achieve his goals.”
Ethan Wiederkehr, who is leaning toward a science degree, said announcing his decision is the equivalent of having a weight lifted from his shoulders.
“This makes all the training and the sacrifice worth it,” he said. “We had late-night workouts all year round to increase my speed and strength. There was never a time where I thought, ‘Just take a day off.’ I’m glad my dad inspired and motivated me throughout the recruiting process. Making the call to the coach tonight was the greatest feeling ever.”
Wiederkehr, surrounded by his family, including his mother, Karen, and sister, Rachel, who played lacrosse at Ohio State, identified some of the factors that motivated him throughout the past two years. The on-field death of his best friend Thomas Cutinella two years ago drove him harder to achieve his Division I dreams.
“Thomas Cutinella motivated me to be a better person and to reach my potential as an athlete,” he said. “Every time I put my hand to the ground, I play for two people — me and him. He had unbelievable spirt and played with conviction. I will do everything in my power to win another Long Island championship and go on to be successful at Northwestern.”
Shoreham-Wading River football coach Matt Millheiser sported a Northwestern baseball cap Monday night and looked forward to one more year of having the big guy on his sideline.
“It’s an amazing day for Shoreham-Wading River football,” he said. “We’ve had great players come through here and he’s the complete package — a great person and a wonderful student-athlete. He’ll represent us well at the next level.”
Ethan gave his mother a big bear hug after the call.
“I have to say I’m so proud of him,” Karen Wiederkehr said. “He went from school to practice to out the door again for a full hour-and-a-half workout every night. We often ate dinner at 9:30. And he never complained because he knew what was out there for him.”