Quiet star: Football glory hasn’t kept Parker grad from doing right
JANESVILLE You’d think a guy who holds the all-time city football rushing record would exult in his accomplishments.
You might even expect him to be a happy-go-lucky partier, careless about what tomorrow might bring.
You’d be wrong in the case of Adam Vesterfelt, a kid whose maturity and dedication to family amaze the adults around him.
Vesterfelt graduated Friday with the rest of the Parker High School Class of 2012.
“I’ve been in the business 38 years as an educator, and he would be truly one of the most determined students I’ve ever been around, and I’m talking about a student, not about an athlete,” said Vesterfelt’s football and track coach, Joe Dye.
Dye said he was in a social studies class one day, and the teacher asked Dye if Vesterfelt was a running back.
“I said, ‘Yup,’ and he said ‘I never would have known that, because he never does anything to draw attention to himself.’”
Vesterfelt’s mother, Melissa Drays, and his biological father divorced when he was small. His stepfather, Andrew Drays, died when he was in fifth grade, leaving his mother with four boys to raise.
It wasn’t long before young Adam became the man of the house, setting an example for his three younger siblings, Brady, Caleb and David, now 17, 14 and 12, respectively.
The family has never had much. His mother has worked three jobs at times, Vesterfelt said. Vesterfelt also works nights and weekends during his off seasons.
“If my mom needs the money for milk and stuff, I’ll give it to her,” he said.
Vesterfelt said most of his classmates don’t know that his family qualifies for government assistance.
“I really can’t complain because I know people have it a lot worse here at school than I do,” Vesterfelt said.
Dye is aware but has never heard Vesterfelt complain.
At the same time, Vesterfelt has worked hard at school and holds a grade point average of 3.3
“School has always been challenging for Adam,” Dye said.
The only thing that came easy was the potter’s wheel in ceramics class.
“I was actually really good at it, the wheel. A lot of people weren’t, so that’s what got me hooked on it,” Vesterfelt said.
But Vesterfelt decided not to continue with ceramics his senior year so that he could take an English class to improve his skills for college.
That kind of maturity extends to home, where Dye said Vesterfelt has become like a parent to his brothers.
“He’s one of the most selfless individuals I’ve ever been around,” Dye said.
Vesterfelt said he has stayed away from parties and drinking.
“He’s not out smoking weed at night. He’s not out drinking and stuff like that and doesn’t even want to hang around with kids like that,” said Paul Simon of Rollette Oil Co., Vesterfelt’s employer.
Simon is one of the men Vesterfelt has looked to for advice. Another is Thad Steinke, his coach from Janesville Youth Football.
Vesterfelt became friends with Steinke’s son, and Steinke became a role model.
“Adam had every reason not to be successful,” Steinke said. “He had all the reasons to throw in the towel and make some bad decisions.”
Steinke marvels at Vesterfelt’s humility.
“When he broke the city school rushing record, I spoke to him after the game. His first words to me were, ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t have been able to get it without my offensive line,” Steinke recalled.
It’s not that Vesterfelt was not passionate about sports. He loves lifting weights, and he’s considering a career as an athletics trainer.
“He has truly enjoyed playing the game and always cared immensely about his teammates,” Dye said.
Simon said he’s been hiring high school students from both sides of town for 30 years, and few have impressed him like Vesterfelt.
“There’s no conceit or arrogance in that man,” Simon said. “He’s very humble. And for the gifts he’s been given as an athlete, that’s just amazing.”
Vesterfelt is also good with customers.
“Very seldom do you get to meet kids who are this nice and this respectful,” Simon said.
Vesterfelt plans to play football and get a college education either at UW-Stevens Point or UW-Whitewater.
“Adam is a great leader just by his example and the way he makes decisions,” Steinke said. “He’ll be very successful in life because of it. There’s no doubt about that.”
Dye said Vesterfelt is special.
“He’s the kind of person who has overcome so many things,” Dye said, “but he’s going to land on his feet because he has great work ethic.”