#collegesafety | Nighthawk grows into role as a team leader

As a 145-pound starting safety on the Del Norte High varsity football team, sophomore Jake Hadzicki gave away 80 to 100 pounds to every opposing player he tackled.

Adding just 15 pounds in 2018 helped a little bit, but 160-pounders usually get the bad end of a collision.

Now 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, Hadzicki brings a lot more force with him to make tackles.

“He’s the guy we need playing on the edge,’’ Del Norte coach Leigh Cole said. “In our defense, he’s more like a safety-linebacker depending on what the other team wants to do. Being 50 pounds heavier than he was as a sophomore allows him to play like that.’’

After last season, Hadzicki came to Cole seeking advice. He inquired about what he needed to improve on to become a college football player.

Cole told him just about everything. Hadzicki worked on every item on the coach’s list. Hadzicki’s speed on the field improved. He gained 35 pounds.

“It dawned on me that this could become my future,’’ Hadzicki said. Every day I ate the right way, not just eating everything in sight. I’d be home and not really that hungry, but I knew I had to have a good dinner to get bigger.’’

Hadzicki is a changed player on the field.

“Just going from the smallest player on the field to one of the biggest players on the field gave me so much confidence,’’ he said. “I love being this big now. I see old photos from two years ago and I laugh. I was tiny back then.’’

Despite not being the biggest player, Hadzicki recorded 49 tackles, including 35 solo stops, with one interception at 145 pounds. At 160 pounds last season, he had 94 tackles, including 71 solo tackles, to go with two sacks and an interception.

Through the first seven games, Hadzicki has 69 tackles, including 45 solo stops, five interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

“I’m just having fun now,’’ Hadzicki said. “I am a product of a lot of hours on the turf working on agility, time in the weight room and in the kitchen.’’

Under the tutelage of older brother Curtis, who played wide receiver at La Costa Canyon High, Hadzicki’s football career benefitted from having a player in the house. Knowing how to push his younger brother, Curtis guided him into becoming a hard-working player.

Not being a Maverick like Curtis has not bothered Jake at all. Older sister Jacklyn was a Nighthawk and that was good enough for him.

“Mom said I had to go to Del Norte because my sister could drive me to school,’’ Hadzicki said, laughing out loud. “I’m supposed to be here at Del Norte. God must have put me at Del Norte for a reason.’’

Hadzicki is also the wardrobe coordinator for the Nighthawks.

“I grew up watching Brandon Phillips play baseball for the Cincinnati Reds and he used to say you should live good, look good and play good,’’ Hadzicki said. “I pick out which uniform we’re going to wear for games.

“Off the field, I’m more of a shorts and T-shirt guy. Never been into overalls. I’m not a big bling guy either.’’

He’s also the team counselor.

“If there are any discipline issues, they come to see me to decide what the punishment should be,’’ Hadzicki said. “I’m not the judge. I’m just the lawyer.

“You have to have fun in football. Sometimes, people take it way too seriously. I was in Texas last year and watching a high school game down there is like watching a college game. Some of the stadiums don’t look like our high school stadiums. They look more like college stadiums.’’

Hadzicki, who wants to major in kinesiology in college, figures he should be looking at Division II schools for his next stop. He’s particularly interested in playing at a school in the Midwest.

“Mom said she’s moving to college with me,’’ Hadzicki said, noting that she’s not serious about leaving sunny Southern California. “I can’t go to the East Coast because she’d hate that. I want a complete opposite experience for the next five years.’’

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