West's Vahalik a football fiend, budding politician

Sept. 20, 2012 at 4:20 a.m.

West's Jonathan Vahalik broke his leg in two places last year, but after a year of rehab is back on the field.

West's Jonathan Vahalik broke his leg in two places last year, but after a year of rehab is back on the field.   Angeli Wright for The Victoria Advocate

If you don't know anything else about Jonathan Vahalik, know that the boy loves football.

It's quickly apparent to anyone who speaks to the Victoria West senior, or anyone who speaks about him: Jonathan loves football. There is an emphasis on the loves, to illustrate he's not your ordinary fanatic.

"He has always loved football," said his mother Annie. "He played every day. When I came home when my husband came home from work or when my sister came over we would throw the football. Every free minute he played football."

Friday, Vahalik and the rest of the Victoria West football team (2-1) will host Bay City (0-2).

It's homecoming for the Warriors, and they are eager to not only beat the Blackcats for the first time in three tries, but avenge a Sept. 17, 2010 loss to Bay City that ruined their first homecoming.

Now, that Jonathan is a senior, he's enjoying every moment around the sport whether it's practice, games, or his weekly ice bath.

"It's been great," said Jonathan, who started the season at left guard for West. "Just playing the game you love and playing it every day. It's the best feeling doing what you want to do. It's what I like doing, so it's the best feeling."

He missed last week's 45-25 win over South San Antonio with a mild concussion.

Whether he returns to his position at left guard may be a game-time decision. What is known is that Jonathan will take the field every time the Warriors score, as part of their field goal protection unit.

Annie Vahalik recalled some friends told her about the Crossroads Youth Football League. She asked Jonathan if we wanted to play. The then fourth-grader eagerly said yes.

Every fall since, Jonathan has been on someone's team. Annie and Philip Vahalik, as well as aunts, neighbors and older siblings Elizabeth, 23, and Nicholas, 28, have been attending games ever since.

"It wasn't like stepping onto a highway," Jonathan said about his CYFL days. "I had a great coach in Coach (Duane) Martin. .He worked with us and always made sure we knew what to do. It really helped everyone."

Once upon a time he was a Stampeder, and even a Titan. But, that was long before some school across town from Victoria West opened. Besides, in those days, Jonathan was a Vipers fan. He would go to as many Memorial games as possible.

"I used to watch football with my dad and my mom. I loved everything about it," Jonathan recalled. "The passion the players had, the way they played the game. I loved it all."

There is a lot more to this 17-year-old than football. This week he was elected vice president of his senior class - teammate Ralph Gonzales led the ticket. He's also been a campus leader for the Fellowship for Christian Athletes the last two years.

"He's had his ups and downs. He's a great leader, he's one of our captains, and he's a very well respected person on our football team," said Victoria West coach Leonard McAngus this week. "This group of kids like each other. It's not always like that. It's just a really neat group. Jonathan is one of the leaders. He sets a great example for the rest of them and the younger kids coming up"

The fact he's able to take the field at all this year is a testament to his recovery from a devastating injury he sustained against Beeville last October.

"It was a freak play . from what I understand," Jonathan recalled. "We were running zone left. Someone got thrown on my legs. As my left leg was planted, and my weight was on my right foot, it just fell over me."

No one will allow Jonathan to see the play in which he broke both the fibula and tibia in his left leg.

The last two seasons, Jonathan has been a left guard for the Warriors. This year West has run for more than 250 yards in each of its last two games.

Fellow lineman Gonzales said the offensive line's success is the result of their offseason cohesion. In the spring and summer the lineman all realized they shared a number of similarities, and they wanted to take that brotherhood on the field.

Gonzales was elected president of the Victoria West senior class this week.

He chose his longtime friend, Vahalik, as his running mate because of his personality, sense of humor, and friendliness with classmates. That, and the fact they have been friends since before kindergarten.

"We're always around each other," Ralph said. "Our coaches talk about us being leaders. So, we figured why not show that the athletes are role models for school, so that's why we decided on the big one."

Their platform is a simple one: making the final year of high school a memorable one for the Class of 2013.

A win Friday night, on homecoming, would certainly fulfill a campaign promise. But, like a true statesman-in-training, Jonathan deflected the praise of current successes to others.

"Everyone likes each other," Jonathan said. "Everyone wants to work for the same goal, to win championships and football games. That's been the main thing. Everyone has worked hard all summer long and all spring, it shows now. We're all playing well."



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