Curtis Hemminghaus has always been enamored with hitting – whether it be the weight room or opposing players on the football field.
And, in a matter of a few weeks, he’ll be hitting the books at Illinois College in pursuit of a degree related to one of his other favorite things.
‘I know I want to be a teacher,’ said the VCHS senior. ‘I think I want to start out teaching biology, because that’s my passion. I really like it.’
Fortunately, Hemminghaus will get the opportunity to continue his other passion – playing football – at IC as well, as he will suit up with the Blueboys next season alongside former Vandals teammate Brock Doehring.
And Hemminghaus’s interest in the aforementioned applied science is quite fitting considering he looks like he was biologically engineered to play football.
Strong as an ox and quick as a cat, Hemminghaus has all the physical skills necessary to excel on the football field.
Vandals head coach John Stout took notice of these God-given abilities when Hemminghaus came into the program his freshman year.
But Stout soon became even more impressed with the 6-foot, 190-pound defensive tackle/offensive guard’s work ethic.
‘The fact he was such a hard worker in the offseason and during the season just brought those abilities to the forefront the last two years,’ Stout said. ‘He just made himself so much better by his work ethic.’
Hemminghaus’s blue-collar approach paid the biggest dividends in the VCHS weight room, where he became a fixture.
‘He’s a dedicated lifter,’ Stout said. ‘In the last three years, I don’t ever remember him missing a lifting session.’
Hemminghaus’s dedication helped him break into the varsity starting lineup during his junior year, and he helped the Vandals make the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
But he truly enjoyed a breakthrough season during his senior year, earning first-team all-SCC East honors as an offensive guard, in addition to finishing second on the team in tackles (70-plus) and solo tackles (40). His eight tackles for a loss led the team.
Thanks in large part to Hemminghaus’s fiery leadership, the Vandals once again made the playoffs, finishing the year 7-3.
In each of those seven victories, it was the exuberant (and oftentimes shirtless) Hemminghaus who led team in raucous post-win chants and celebrations.
He was equally emotional on the field.
‘You have to play the game with emotion,’ Stout said. ‘And one thing that allowed Curtis to do that was that he had a lot of confidence when he went out there.
‘He had confidence in his physical abilities, and he had the experience of playing four years,’ Stout added. ‘Once you have those things going, you can play with emotion. … He was able to go out there last year and just let it all hang out. When you do that, it’s a lot of fun.’
Illinois College was interested in Hemminghaus’s overall package – work ethic, ability and attitude – as much as Hemminghaus was interested in the school’s overall makeup, both athletically and academically.
And it certainly didn’t hurt that IC would provide Hemminghaus the opportunity to play with Doehring again.
‘We had a lot of fun playing together my junior year and had a real successful season,’ said Hemminghaus. ‘I think his class is the one that started the turnaround. His class helped us a lot, and I always looked up to him, so I think it’s going to be a lot of fun playing with him.’
Doehring played a big role in getting IC assistant coach (and likely new head coach) James Ryan to recruit Hemminghaus.
‘Brock talked to them about what a hard worker he is in the weight room,’ Stout said. ‘That’s the kind of kid they want.’
And by the same token, Doehring was able to sell Hemminghaus on IC.
‘I talked to Brock, and he said that it was really nice up there,’ Hemminghaus said. ‘So I came to a decision on Illinois College. They have the best program, from what I’ve seen, and they’ve got a lot of nice stuff up there.’
Hemminghaus became accustomed to playing both ways during his high school career, but it’s likely his two-way days will be over at IC.
‘I’ll probably try a couple different spots, but I’ll probably end up being a linebacker or defensive lineman… somewhere on defense,’ Hemminghaus said. ‘(Coach Ryan) told me it was really up to me where I wanted to play, because he doesn’t want to put you in a place where you’re not going to have fun playing.’
Hemminghaus is happy playing football – period. That said, getting an opportunity to play at the collegiate level is a dream come true.
‘It’s really exciting,’ said Hemminghaus. ‘I was thinking about it before we came up here, and my heart was just pounding. I know it’s just a little piece of paper, but it’s pretty sweet.’
Stout is obviously tickled any time one of his former players gets the opportunity to go on and play college ball. But the fact that a pair of his former players will be on the same college team made Hemminghaus’s signing day even sweeter.
‘It’s great every time this happens,’ Stout said. ‘For Curtis to go up there and play with Brock, it’s something special.’