Craig’s Uschan puts heart scare behind him

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October 22, 2007
— Tyler Uschan has a big heart. Literally.

The Janesville Craig High senior football standout was recently diagnosed with “Athletes heart”—or simply put—an enlarged heart.

Uschan woke up on Sept. 16 suffering from chest pains and shortness of breath, symptoms rarely seen in a healthy, athletic 17-year old.

After a trip to the emergency room and a battery of tests, Uschan’s worst fears were laid to rest. The cardiologist’s diagnosis was an enlarged heart that is associated with repeated strenuous exercise. Athletes’ heart is a normal condition in young adults that generally does not signify any danger of a lingering heart problem.

The doctors didn’t place any restrictions on Uschan’s physical activities. The condition requires no medication.

So, Uschan could go back to being a kid. And more important, a dominating presence on the football field.

“It was scary when it happened. That’s for sure,” Uschan said of the incident. “But once the doctors told me there’s nothing I couldn’t do, I realized it’s not so bad. I don’t think about it.”

Craig offensive coordinator Jerry Schliem, who has helped transform Uschan into one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the area, spoke volumes of his star receiver.

“Not only does Tyler have a big heart, but he’s got a heckuva a heart for football,” Schliem said. “He’s made something positive out of a very serious situation.

“When I think of a good receiver, I think of someone with exceptional speed, a great pair of hands and someone that knows how to get open. Tyler fits that description.”

Uschan, rock solid at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, is not an overnight sensation. He earned second-team all-Big Eight Conference recognition a year ago and is a strong candidate to repeat this season. In nine games, Uschan has caught 45 passes for 655 yards. He has scored seven touchdowns despite missing the Madison West game while doctors tried to figure out what caused the heart scare.

In one of the top individual performances in the state this season, Uschan put up staggering numbers on Aug. 31 in a 28-27 loss to Madison Memorial. Uschan set school records with 13 receptions for 299 yards—including an 86-yard scoring strike from quarterback Charlie Roherty.

Uschan’s speed—he qualified for state in track as part of the 400-meter relay team—sets him apart from most receivers, but coach Bill O’Leary said a strong work ethic contributed to the success.

“Tyler’s worked on his speed a lot and got to be a lot faster,” O’Leary said. “That doesn’t just happen.

“And he’s not just a receiver in our offensive scheme. We ask him to block like the rest of our receivers and he’s done a nice job. If we used a tight end in our scheme, Tyler would be a prodigy at that position.”

Craig enters the first-round of the WIAA Division 1 playoffs mired in a two-game losing streak. The Cougars led the Big Eight standings at 4-1 after beating Madison West, but ended the regular season losing three of four games to finish 5-4 overall and 5-3 in the conference. Uschan says the Cougars are treating the playoffs like a new start.

“It’s just a matter of getting the job done,” Uschan said. “Everyone’s got to do their part and people have to step up.

“We’ll get the offense going. I’m pretty sure about that.”

Uschan will certainly have his heart in it.

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