Benet running back Brad Sznajder isn’t taking anything for granted. Last fall as a junior, he learned that the fortunes of a football player can change in an instant.
In just the second game of the 2013 season, starting running back Porter Ontko suffered a devastating injury, tearing ligaments in his right knee and missing the rest of the season.
Ontko was going to be the team’s workhorse while Sznajder expected to be mentored by Ontko while getting a few carries a game. Unexpectedly, Sznajder’s role became a whole lot larger.
“I had grown up looking at Porter as the older stud,” Sznajder said. “I saw how hard he worked, so it was really tough to think about losing him and for him to miss the rest of his senior year. That was tough.”
Apparently, all those additional reps he received over the course of the final seven games last year have helped Sznajder and the Redwings get off to a fantastic start.
Sznajder is averaging 7.6 yards a carry and 199 rushing yards this year. He’s also scored an area-best seven touchdowns.
“I’m not really surprised,” Benet coach Pat New said. “When we lost Porter (Ontko), he stepped in and was just awesome. He’s continued from where he left off.”
Sznajder made sure to acknowledge his offensive line for paving the way for his success, including Joe Flynn, Sean O’Connor, Matt Potvin, Connor O’Donnell and Tyler Takahashi.
“I have all the confidence in those guys,” Sznajder said. “They’ve set the table for me and I have to give all the credit to them.”
For someone who can move so quickly on his feet, Sznajder finds nearly as much satisfaction from breaking away for a long touchdown run as he does hanging out with his teammates in the locker room after practice.
He’s also learned to pay attention to the present.
“The season really does fly by so I’m taking the time to sit back and try to enjoy it the most,” he said. “I’ll hang out in the locker room with the team and we’ll talk about anything really. You realize you’re going to miss the games, and moments like those, so I’m trying to soak in all the little things.”
Of course, winning brings more smiles to these moments and so far, so good for the Redwings. Still, Sznajder knows how quickly things can change there, too.
Last season, the Redwings improved to 6-0 after beating St. Viator on Oct. 4. Less than a month later, they lost their fourth straight game and saw their season end with a 49-6 loss to Mt. Carmel.
“We’re determined to not let that happen again,” he said. “We’ve done a good job so far. If we can stick together and play our hearts out, good things can happen.”
Although he’s concentrating on the present, Sznajder’s future could include college football. Perhaps he could follow Ontko (Dartmouth) into the Ivy League?
“We both did go to Saints Peter and Paul (in Naperville),” Sznajder said. “I’m definitely looking at college football. I’m looking at the Pioneer League, some D-3 schools and Ivy League schools.”
He’s got some time to decide his plans for next year though. For now, his attention is on the remainder of this season, specifically this Friday’s game.
“We’ve broken down this season to nine seasons, not nine games,” Sznajder said. “Right now all I’m focused on is St. Patrick. I’m just going to take it one game at a time and see what happens.”