Guerin wide receiver/linebacker Joe Topping doesn’t have a good reason for deciding to not play football last year, but he’s definitely sorry he made that choice.
“I wanted to take a break for the year; I’m still not really sure why,” Topping said. “Then I went to watch the first game and I really wanted to be on the field. I regretted it that second.”
Topping did the only thing he could do to rectify the mistake. He started training so he could play his final year in high school and it clearly has paid dividends.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior leads the team in receptions with 21 and receiving yards with 208.
“He’s definitely our leading receiver,” Gators’ coach Tony Pecoraro said. “He’s one of those guys you want to get the ball in his hands and see what he can do. We didn’t know how talented he is until he came out this summer. Right in the 7-on-7’s he got a connection with (quarterback Tyler) Flynn and he was making high-flying catches.”
Topping had played linebacker and fullback on JV during his freshman and sophomore years. He always thought he had good hands but didn’t know for sure until the passing camps. The hardest part was learning the plays and running routes properly.
In addition to a good relationship with Flynn, Topping also was able to learn from a couple of quarterbacks in his family. His dad, Brian, played quarterback for St. Joseph back in the 1970’s while his brother, Jimmy, is a sophomore quarterback at Notre Dame in Niles.
“I ran routes with (Jimmy) all year,” Joe said. “I just trained and trained. We push each other to do better. If he ever wants to play catch I’m ready and it helps me out too.”
“He loves football and asked me to work with him to get him back into football,” Jimmy Topping said. “He’s always had good hands. He moves his hands fast because he played catcher in baseball. He runs good routes too and I knew he’d be a good receiver.”
Joe Topping has had one other big thing to overcome this season: asthma. He wasn’t diagnosed until freshman year and has worked hard to control it this season in order to play both ways for Guerin.
“Earlier in the year I couldn’t really go for a long time,” Topping said. “But I just trained and trained. I had to work my asthma into order. Now I only take one (puff of the inhaler) in the beginning of the game and one at halftime and I’m good.”
The coaches are careful not to push him too hard but thankfully Topping has a good feel for how hard to go.
“Because he’s a senior we really leave it to him,” Pecoraro said. “He knows when to take himself out. He knows how far he can push it. He’ll come out for a few plays and he’ll put himself back in. Our trainer is excellent and makes sure he has the puffer and all that good stuff.”
Topping and his teammates started the season out with a pair of wins but they’re in the midst of a three-game losing streak after dropping a 28-14 decision to Chicago Christian on Friday.
Guerin tries to get back to .500 on Saturday when it travels to Wheaton Academy for a Suburban Christian Blue game.