Steve Gazdek is more of a boys’ lacrosse guy than a football player.
Gazdek, who just graduated from Jackson Liberty High School, played both sports at the varsity level for the Jackson Township school. But he will be playing lacrosse at the next level at Albright College in Reading, Pa.
Yet even though football was his second sport, Gazdek still stood out in the fall.
He started at linebacker for the Lions and played well enough to earn a nod to the 23rd annual Sunshine Football Classic that was played on July 2 at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville.
Gazdek played for the East All-Star team in its 14-7 victory over the West All-Stars. The game was delayed for an hour because of a thunderstorm. Then the officials ended it early in the third quarter because of another lightning strike. The result, though, still stood as the East pulled off its first victory in the series since 2014.
The Jackson Liberty linebacker was the only Jackson player in the game. The Sunshine Classic predominantly features players from Mercer County, and Jackson is located in Ocean County.
But Gazdek is “personal friends” with the game’s organizer, Jack Dunn, who knew he was a good player and an upstanding member of the community, and asked him to play in the game since it needed another player.
The recent graduate grew up watching and following summer all-star games in New Jersey, and playing in one was a dream come true.
“It means a lot,” Gazdek said. “I worked for a very long time.”
The 6-1, 170-pound linebacker was very honest about his Jackson Liberty football career. It wasn’t easy, he said. The Lions finished under .500 in all four of Gazdek’s seasons with the program.
Jackson Liberty’s boys’ lacrosse program, though, had more success during Gazdek’s career. In 2019, the lacrosse Lions finished 8-8 and qualified for the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group 2 sectional tournament, losing in the first round at Allentown High School, 6-4, on May 15. So Gazdek still got the experience of helping to build a successful program on the field.
But sticking with the football program taught Gazdek the meaning of character and fortified his constitution for future challenges. You hear this a lot about the high school football experience, and it’s a very real thing.
“My career could have been better. I had mistakes,” Gazdek said. “But I put my heart out there.”
“I stuck with it and learned to push myself as much as I can,” he added.
The experience undoubtedly helped Gazdek earn a chance to play collegiate lacrosse at Albright.
“It taught me how to be a better person in general,” he said.
That quality will serve him well in the classroom, too, in college. Gazdek will study his passion, video game and simulation development, at the Reading, Pa. school.
Gazdek has been a gamer for as long as he can remember, and he is not just your typical jock gamer who plays Madden NFL and other sports games. His favorite game is Skyrim, an action role playing video game set in medieval times.
“My life is video games. I love playing them,” he said. “And everybody says for your future job, make it as good as you can.”
“You know, enjoy it,” he added.