Sam Wisneski is a math and science whiz.
The Ashwaubenon senior maintains a GPA above a 4.0 and plans to study engineering at the University of Houston, which he will be attending on an academic scholarship from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
But even Wisneski has a tough time processing how he was able to make one of the most amazing plays by a high school athlete in the past year.
The 6-foot-2 receiver caught a 54-yard touchdown pass in a WIAA Division 2 football playoff game at Superior that made him into a YouTube sensation. Wisneski was blinded and grabbed the football off a defender’s back before spinning away while avoiding the sideline to reach the end zone.
The catch was voted the No. 4 high school football play in the nation by MaxPreps.com and was a signature moment for the three-sport athlete, who also plays basketball and is a No. 1 singles player on the Ashwaubenon tennis team.
Wisneski discusses the catch, his academic success and a variety of topics in this week’s senior spotlight.
How were you able to maintain success both in the classroom and as a three-sport athlete?
I’m just a pretty competitive person I guess. That kind of runs in the Wisneski family. I don’t care if it’s sports, academics or whatever it is, I don’t really like to lose.
What is your favorite class?
Math and science. I like to figure things out and see how things work. I kind of have a mind for math, so I’m going for engineering in college.
Does math ever come into the equation when you’re playing sports?
Here and there. On the tennis court, it’s mostly angles. If you have a short shot, and kind of hitting it cross court, and figuring out the right speed to get it in and to still hit it hard where they can’t get to it. So, there’s definitely a lot of it that plays into it.
A couple of your teammates put up some ridiculous numbers on the football field and basketball court. What was it like playing with James Morgan and Kyle Monroe?
Both of those guys broke a school record. Kyle, I want to say, is the fourth-leading (basketball) scorer in the (Green Bay) metro area. That’s been cool playing with him since fifth grade. We knew back then that he was going to be special. And James, that was kind of a bonus. He came freshman year to Ashwaubenon and right away we could tell this guy has an arm. He lit it up. I think he’s a top 10 passer in the state all-time. It’s been a lot of fun to have those guys on the team and it makes everybody else on the team better, too.
Which one of your teammates on the tennis team could survive on a deserted island?
I think Brad Tschoeke would probably be the one there. He’s a pretty smart guy and would figure something out. He’s the type of kid that would build a raft to get off the island whereas somebody like Devin (Wright) would sit on the island and go fishing for a couple months and sustain himself on the island there.
Who is the best dressed player on the Ashwaubenon tennis team?
I would say David Clark because he’s always rocking that headband and the cool socks.
Who is obsessed about the upkeep of their racquet on the team?
Abrar (Mian) loves his racquets. He’s got more racquets in his bag than I can even count. He gets a special string. I actually bought the same racquet that he has because it seems like he knows what he’s doing.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about the catch. Were you surprised by how much attention you received from it?
It’s just crazy what social media can do. It has hundreds and thousands of views. I go pick up a prescription at Walgreens or something and they see my last name and they go, ‘Did you make that catch? Did you have that catch?’ It’s pretty crazy how many people in the area know about that.
What was the situation that led to that play?
We were down 21-7 at that point. It was the second quarter, and it was third-and-36. James just told me to go deep, and I knew he was throwing to me. He threw it up and the (defensive back) interfered with me. In high school, it would have been a 15-yard penalty. I knew our team needed a play, so I did the only thing I could and reached around him. All of a sudden I realized I had the ball against his back so I spun out and stayed in bounds and scored. It didn’t really hit me until a couple hours later I think.
The fact that you caught the ball off the defender’s back was impressive. But what most people don’t know is that you’ve actually been battling a back injury, which ultimately is causing you to miss time on the tennis court. How did it happen?
My back started bothering me junior year of basketball. There is no specific injury that I can remember that set it off. It’s just progressively been getting worst. Now, it’s gotten to the point where I can’t even stand it, so I got a MRI and it’s a bulging disc. I got a cortisone shot. They’re talking surgery this summer if that doesn’t heal up. But I’m optimistic that the cortisone shot and a little rest will do the trick.
What type of advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
Just soak it all in. It goes by so fast. It seems like just yesterday I was in sixth or seventh grade and talking about what varsity sports are going to be like in high school. That’s when college wasn’t even on the table. Now, here it is the spring of my senior year. The next thing you know I’ll be off to college. So, enjoy it while it last and soak it all in.
TV show: “How I Met Your Mother.”
Movie: “Shawshank Redemption.”
Food: Golden Double Stuf Oreos.
Childhood toy: Nerf football.
Passing route: Comeback.
Did you know?
Wisneski picked No. 4 for his football jersey number because his favorite player is Brett Favre.
“Besides the sports part of it, Sam is an even better all-around person. His integrity, his character, his leadership, those are the things that make Sam. He’s an all-star athlete in every sport he does. But that’s not what makes Sam. It’s who he is as a person that stands out.” – Ashwaubenon boys tennis coach Scott Conradt