By Frank Rajkowski, SJU Video Author/Producer
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. – by Michael Wozniack The household has an extended and deep connection to Johnnie’s athletics.
And, in a method, that story will come collectively on October 1.
That afternoon, Wozniak, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound All-America defensive lineman, will lead the Saint John’s College soccer crew into motion in opposition to Concordia in Homecoming at Clemens Stadium.
Then, a couple of hours later, the man he was named after, former Johnnie soccer All-American Mike Lilly ’78, will take his place within the SJU J-Membership Corridor of Honor. The dinner and induction ceremony is at 5:15 pm in Guild Corridor.
Lilly died of a pulmonary embolism at age 41 on Christmas Eve 1997, a number of years earlier than her namesake was born. However Wozniak has all the time felt a particular reference to him.
“Once we first heard he was going to be inducted, it was extraordinarily emotional for all of us,” stated Wozniak, whose crew (2-0 general) was ranked No. 2 within the American Soccer Coaches Affiliation (AFCA) most Latest and D3football.com Division III Prime 25 Ballot: He faces a giant check when he opens the MIAC recreation at No. 20 Bethel (1-1) at 1 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 24) within the Royal Stadium in Arden Hills.
“He was such a monumental determine in our household. He handed away some 20 years in the past, however he has all the time remained entrance and heart in our eyes. We take nice delight in all that he was in a position to accomplish right here. So to see him remembered by Saint John’s this fashion actually means quite a bit.”
The household’s connection to SJU truly started with its patriarch, LeRoy Lilly ’55, a outstanding Johnnies soccer and baseball participant who was a part of the legendary former head coach John GagliardiThe college’s first crew in 1953.
LeRoy, who died in 2017, went on to play a number one function within the SJU Alumni Affiliation and was awarded the 1984 Fr. Walter Reger Distinguished Service Award.
Miguel (left) adopted his father to Collegeville within the fall of 1974 and have become a four-time All-MIAC and all-district soccer participant who earned All-American honors as a senior in 1977. He stays the main scorer within the faculty profession with 62 and led the Johnnies to NAIA district titles in 1974 and ’76.
“My dad was my most important function mannequin rising up,” stated Wozniak, whose father, Joe, performed soccer at SJU his freshman 12 months earlier than transferring and was shut pals along with his brother-in-law, Mike.
“However my grandfather and my Uncle Mike have been on the subsequent stage. I seemed as much as each of them, though Mike was not with us. They have been each examples of what I needed to be.”
Mike’s brothers, Pat and Dan, additionally performed soccer for the Johnnies, whereas his sisters, Colleen ’81 and Mary (Michael’s mom), performed tennis on the Faculty of Saint Benedict. That meant Wozniak was consistently in SJU whereas he was rising up.
“We have been actually the primary followers of the soccer subject,” recollects Pat Lilly ’79. “We would come to soccer video games and park by the soccer subject. We would hold Mike’s jersey on a maple tree devoted to Mike by soccer alumni and pals and kick the ball round.
“All of the cousins can be there enjoying. So Michael grew up round SJU sporting occasions.”
blazing their very own path
However when it got here time to decide on his personal faculty path, Wozniak, then a standout at Robbinsdale Armstrong Excessive College, wasn’t certain he needed to observe within the household’s footsteps.
“It is humorous as a result of rising up, everybody joked about me coming right here,” stated Wozniak, whose older brother, Jack ’19, ran monitor at SJU. “However once I acquired to highschool, I began trying nearly in every single place.
“Wanting again, it appears a bit silly. However I used to be decided to blaze my very own path. It wasn’t till I got here right here by myself, not as a toddler however as a possible scholar, that I noticed this was a spot the place I might write my very own story.”
And it has been fairly a narrative. After making an impression as a freshman in 2018, Wozniak earned a beginning job heading into the season opener at Wisconsin-Stout the next 12 months. However he broke his left hand whereas he was making a dropping sort out on the protection’s first play and missed the remainder of the season.
Nevertheless, he got here again in a giant method a 12 months in the past: He recorded 30 tackles, together with 15.5 for a loss, and an MIAC-best 10.5 sacks whereas incomes All-America honors.
“Michael Wozniak and Mike Lilly are actually the identical type of gamers,” Pat Lilly stated. “They’ve the identical demeanor. It was not and isn’t about particular person glory. The truth is, I do not suppose any of them actually realized how good they have been/are.
“The main target was and is easy methods to greatest assist the crew succeed.”
Wozniak does simply that once more this fall. By two video games, he already has 9 tackles, together with 4.5 for loss and three sacks.
“Our purpose is to maintain getting higher,” stated Wozniak, an accounting scholar who earned Tutorial All-America honors a 12 months in the past and was named to the elite Allstate AFCA Good Works 2022 crew on Sept. 19. soccer within the defensive position on the finish of final season and we do not wish to take a step again.
It is honest to say that he has completed a positive job of extending the household custom of athletic success at SJU.
“To today, I do not actually play for recognition and awards,” he stated. “However once I was named an All-American final season, I felt actual delight. As a result of I knew that was one thing my Uncle Mike might do right here.
“And it was a fantastic feeling to have the ability to say that I did that right here as nicely.”