Hedwall signs with Concordia | RecordCourier.com

Hedwall signs with Concordia

by Dave Price
dprie@recordcourier.com

Sierra Lutheran High School senior Peyton Hedwall signs a football letter with Concordia University Ann Arbor on Tuesday as his parents Jeff and Marina look on.

When it comes to football at Sierra Lutheran High School, Peyton Hedwall is a player anyone on campus can look up to. And not just because he stands 6-foot-5, 285 pounds.

Hedwall put his name to a letter-of-intent with Concordia University Ann Arbor to become Sierra Lutheran's first football college signee during an official ceremony on Tuesday morning in the school gym. Hedwall said he expects to play as an offensive lineman for the Cardinals.

Hedwall acknowledged his parents, family, coaches and trainers as well as fellow students and staff members at Sierra Lutheran during the school assembly. He also led a prayer to express that gratitude.

"I have so many people to thank who have supported me," he said. "First, I just want to thank God … so if we could all just pray."

Even though there is another college team in Ann Arbor — the Michigan Wolverines — the Concordia Cardinals were 9-2 last fall and qualified for the NAIA playoffs for the first time.

"They were only beaten by the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country, so I'm excited," Hedwall said. "I can't wait to get in and be a part of it."

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Hedwall, who lives in Gardnerville, has come far since he walked on to the North Valley school's campus as a freshman in 2014 as part of its inaugural football team. Jacob Schumacher, who started the program and coached the Falcons for two seasons, remembers the first time he saw Hedwall.

"As we started that first team, I was super ecstatic seeing a nice big lineman like Peyton walk through the door for his first day of school," Schumacher said during the signing ceremony. "His freshman year, he was about 6-2. When he came back the next summer, he was 6-4. Since then he has grown into the man he is now."

Schumacher, now an assistant football coach at Faith Lutheran High in Las Vegas, added that he looks forward to following Hedwall's progress for Concordia Ann Arbor, where his brother, Joshua Schumacher, serves as head coach.

"I could not be more proud of him," Jacob Schumacher said of Hedwall. "This scholarship to play college football shows his determination and his desire to get better."

Hedwall earned second-team all-league recognition as an offensive lineman last fall during a season when the Falcons went 1-7 overall. He was also the team's Most Inspirational Player award recipient.

Sierra Lutheran head coach Delbert Bugg, who has been with the program all four years, spoke of Hedwall's physical and mental growth.

"It's one thing to have physical gifts, but it's another thing in this world when you're willing to take those gifts and push yourself to be better," said Bugg, a 1988 Douglas High graduate who played as an offensive center for the Tigers. "We've always talked about how we want to make this program better and 'leave something for your future classmates.' He's going on to bigger and better things. It's just going to be fun to watch and I'm incredibly proud that I got to be part of it."

Hedwall has been a three-sport athlete for the Falcons — he is the defending Class 1A state shotput champion in track and field as well as a basketball player — and his effort goes beyond that. To illustrate that effort, he puts in two to three days a week before school with Carson Valley personal trainers Clay and Brock Peterson.

"He's had a 5 a.m. spot at the gym in my house, two if not three days a week for two-and-a-half years," Clay Peterson said. "That's a wonderful testament to his dedication, and it's made all the difference in the world."

Peterson, a 1981 Douglas High graduate who played quarterback for the Tigers, added that Hedwall has some solid numbers in the weight room.

"Now, he benches 270, and he will bench 300 by the end of the year," Peterson said. "He dead lifts 500 pounds. He will squat 400 pounds this year. The key is his hard work, working smart and his dedication."

That increase in strength, not to mention improved quickness, is expected to carry over the spring track and field season. As a junior in 2017, Hedwall improved his best distance in the shot put by at least eight feet in 2017 and threw 43-feet, 11 inches to win the shot put gold medal at state.

"I'd like to break the school record this year, which is 52 feet in the shot put," Hedwall said of the school record 51-2 set by Chase Johnson in 2014.

Hedwall spoke of his memories about being part of brand new football program at Sierra Lutheran.

"It was a really unique opportunity," he said. "I'm just excited to see it grow and hopefully there are going to be a lot more people like me who are going to go on and play in college."

Sierra Lutheran offensive coordinator Fred Contreras described Hedwall as the "backbone of our team" last season

"It was neat to see how the team came around and really became a family, and I would say Peyton's a definite reason for that happening," Contreras said. "We do this breakdown at the end of practice and I remember Peyton was the first one who, instead of saying 'Falcons,' he would say, 'Family.' That really says a lot about Peyton's willingness to be a brother to the rest of the guys and just a person everyone looked up to and respected."