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Hesse follows in brother's footsteps


When he was in seventh grade, Justin Hesse wanted to follow into the footsteps of his older brother, Josh.

So Hesse became interested in playing football and joined the Grigsby Middle School football team.

"My brother played it," Hesse said. "I just like football."

But his first football season was cut short due to the four-week Granite City School District strike.

"I was pretty mad because we didn't get to play any more games," Hesse said.

After not playing in his eighth-grade year, Hesse returned to football in his freshman year at Granite City High. He went on to play with the Warriors all four years.

"He decided four years ago that he wanted to play football and I think he has done a really good job," said Jim Hesse, Justin's father. "He worked really unbelievably hard all year round for the last four years. We have rescheduled family vacations and trips and worked around everything for football."

Hesse's senior season this fall was cut short due to an arm injury he suffered against Jersevyille on Sept. 1. The 5-foot-8, 195-pound Hesse, who plays center, had to miss the rest of the season, including the Warriors' season finale against Belleville West last week.

"When he got injured at the Jerseyville game, he came running out and his mom and I were like, 'Oh, my God, what happened to him? His arm is dragging.' I went down to the sidelines and I looked at him and I was talking to the trainer, Tate Merten," Jim Hesse said. "I asked him, 'what's going on?' He said, 'I don't know.' Justin said, 'dad, let me just wrap it up and go back in. I have to be out there for the guys.' Unfortunately, both the trainer and I agreed that wasn't the best course of action and he agreed with it."

Hesse injured his left arm in the final minutes of the first half against Jerseyville.

"In the first touchdown we made during the game, I fell into the end zone," Hesse said. "A couple of people fell on my arm because I caught myself in this arm and they fell on it sideways and they fractured the bone."

Despite the injury, Hesse continued to show support for the Warriors.

"I couldn't walk away from them and say, 'yeah, I'm done.' I can't do that to them, so I stuck it out with them," Hesse said.

Hesse is one of 10 seniors on the Granite City football team. Bryan Parker, Chris Walls, Alex Karnafel, J.J. King, Monteal Harper, Joe Schultz, Shane Recer, Russell English and Ryan Hart are the other seniors.

"We have a really good senior class," Hesse said. "I really enjoy the people I'm with. Most of us have been there all four years. I got to know them really well."

In his freshman year, Hesse helped the Granite City freshman team finish with a 5-4 record.

"We had a lot of kids in our freshman year," Hesse said. "We had a pretty good team in our freshman year, too. It was fun that year."

The 18-year-old Hesse also started playing center in his freshman season.

"In my freshman year, I played tackle, but then they moved me to center at the end for a little bit because our center was kind of hurt," Hesse said. "In my sophomore year, I started out at tackle again and they moved Shane Recer to varsity to play center, so I got moved to center. Ever since the second week of my sophomore year, I played center."

Hesse said the biggest highlight of his high school football career was helping the Warriors beat Belleville West 35-28 in overtime last year.

"It was great," Hesse said. "It was a really good feeling after the game."

Last week, Hesse saw his team lose to Belleville West 38-31 in overtime from the sidelines.

"It was really hard since we scored a touchdown with a minute, five seconds left (to take a lead)," Hesse said. "To lose it in overtime was pretty hard."

Hesse, who is a member of the National Honor Society and the Varsity Club, said playing all four years with the Granite City football program helped him become a better person.

"I learned a lot," Hesse said. "I changed a lot. My habits have changed a lot. I'm more active now. It made me grow up more because I had more responsibility. I can't just slack off and do nothing. I had to do things to help the team out. It really made me grow up."

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