In an age when many parents are encouraging — make that demanding — their child specialize in one sport, Heather and Greg Kolwich were at the other end of the spectrum when it came to their son, Cameron.
“I played every sport,” said Kolwich, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior offensive tackle at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. “I gave everything a try.”
When Kolwich says everything, he isn’t exaggerating.
“I did swimming, tennis, lacrosse, soccer, hockey, baseball, basketball, football,” he said. “I didn’t want to play some of the sports. I didn’t want to swim at all or play tennis, but I’m glad I did.”
He is glad because all of those sports combined to make Kolwich a genuine athlete, not just a big kid who lumbers up and down the football field. The variety of sports helped him with his speed and agility, which is why Kolwich will be headed to Northwestern to play football next fall.
Football is the sport Kolwich began playing as a third-grader. As he grew, it became apparent football would be the sport that could take him the furthest.
While his parents encouraged him to play multiple sports, they also set a high priority on academics, helping produce his 3.2 grade-point average.
“From a young age, they definitely wanted me to do well in school,” he said. “They said football could definitely get me to a college that I wouldn’t be able to get into. Obviously, Northwestern is an extremely hard college to get into on just academics alone, so if I can use football to get there, that definitely would benefit me greatly.”
Among the bigger schools to offer Kolwich a scholarship were Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Purdue and Illinois, but Northwestern “was the Ivy League education with Big Ten athletics,” he said. “It was that mix, basically.”
Kolwich became a starter midway through his sophomore year, which ended in disappointment when the Eaglets did not qualify for the state playoffs.
But that changed dramatically a year ago, when St. Mary’s not only qualified but won the Division 3 state championship.
Days before the state championship game, running back Brandon Adams’ mother, Katie, died after a short battle with lung cancer. Kolwich and some of his teammates had visited her in the hospital and attended a vigil at the school the night before the championship game.
“It was a few days before the state championship game, so obviously the whole team was all around him those couple of days,” Kolwich said. “It was during the Thanksgiving weekend so we visited her a few times. It was an emotional time, but he pulled through it and we got the job done.”
It was one of those life lessons that athletics can teach, and served as a reminder to Kolwich of what is important.
“Your teammates are your new family, basically, and you’ll remember these moments for the rest of your life,” he said. “Maybe in college or if you’re lucky enough to go to the NFL you’ll have moments with that, but you’ll never have the same kind of moments you will with your high school friends and high school teammates.”
Gradually Kolwich eliminated other sports besides football from his life, but now he has added yoga.
Yoga for an offensive lineman?
“My mom is a yoga teacher,” he said. “It helps, being an offensive lineman, you need flexibility.”
Meet the Eaglets
Last season: 12-2.
Top players: QB Brendan Tabone; OT Cameron Kolwich; junior LB Josh Ross; FB/LB Pierce Bauer; DB Tyler Cochran; junior WR/DB Kahlee Hamler; RB Brandon Adams.
Overall state playoff record: 59-14.
Coach: George Porritt, 27th season at St. Mary’s (234-66).
Overview: The defending Division 3 state champs will contend for another title with a defense that returns six starters. Adams ran for more than 1,400 yards last season and Kolwich (Northwestern) will open a lot of holes for him and protect Tabone, a good passer.