Gus Hartwig: Zionsville’s All-American
This month, Zionsville Monthly is proud to feature Gus Hartwig, a Zionsville Community High School (ZCHS) senior and Purdue University commit, on our last cover of 2019. Last month, Hartwig—an offensive lineman for the ZCHS football team—was presented with his jersey for the 20th Annual All-American Bowl and will play among some of the nation’s top talent in the annual East versus West matchup on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Hartwig is ranked No. 3 in the state and the No. 1 center and was one of 100 players selected by the All-American Bowl Selection Committee. Though being selected and playing on a national stage is a high honor for Hartwig, it will not be his first national appearance on a football field. Hartwig played in the International Bowl representing the U.S. after his freshman year, but it has been a goal and a dream of Hartwig’s to play in the All-American Bowl after being heavily inspired by former ZCHS player and All-American Bowl veteran Blake Lueders nearly a decade ago.
He was also inspired by his grandfather, uncle and father who all three played football.
“I started playing when I was in the second grade, and I’ve always wanted to become a Big 10 or a Power 5 [conference] player,” Hartwig said. “I knew at a young age that’s what I wanted to do. I remember when I was younger, I watched Blake [Lueders] play. And I remember thinking that I wanted to be like Blake. I have always looked up to him as someone who had been a really good player at Zionsville, and that’s what I wanted to be.”
The Support Squad
Behind every great player is a strong support system. Hartwig, who is humble by nature and by upbringing, was quick to thank everyone who has been an influencer, adviser and encourager throughout his entire young life.
“I played on the travel team for the Zionsville Youth Football League from fourth to sixth grade,” Hartwig said. “My dad coached me from second to sixth grade, and he’s the one who got me through those years and really instilled the love of football, along with all the other coaches.”
Hartwig continued, “I think all of the support has helped me get to where I’m at today. Football has developed me more as a person than it has as a player, and I think it’s made me a better human being rather than just an athlete. And the support of my coaches, teammates, friends and family have really developed me into who I am today.”
The community of Zionsville is also a big part of Hartwig’s support system. He expressed, “I think the community of Zionsville has been really supportive of the school system and its teams. Our community is something really special.”
Becoming an All-American
When asked what went through his mind when he got the text that he had been selected for the 2020 All-American Bowl, Hartwig shared, “It really was a dream come true. And when I got my jersey, I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is actually happening.’ I am just thankful and excited for the opportunity.”
The journey to becoming an All-American Bowl player did not come without commitment, determination and Herculean effort on Hartwig’s part.
Hartwig described his freshman year as preparation for an opportunity he dreamt he would have and eventually would be awarded.
“Coming out of middle school, my goal was to play and start my freshman year,” Hartwig said. “Coach Ech [Echeverria] called my dad and said he wanted me to go to [football training] camp. At that moment, I was like, ‘OK, Coach believes in me and that I can be a good player.’ So, on Mondays I would play the freshman game, Tuesdays and Wednesdays I would practice with the varsity [team] and Thursdays I practiced with the freshman team. On Friday, I would play as backup, and then we do it all over again the following week.”
All the while, Hartwig balanced his academics and athletic goals like a champion—keeping everything in its proper perspective with the assistance of his support system.
“It was a lot of continuous hard work and love for the game,” Hartwig emphasized. “It was knowing that this is what I’ve wanted to do, and it was a lot of me trusting the coaches.”
College Bound as a Boilermaker
Hartwig chose between Purdue University and the University of Virginia. He ultimately chose Purdue because of the athletic and academic balance it promotes and support it provides its student-athletes.
He will graduate mid-term this December and begin his college experience a semester early up in Lafayette, Indiana. In order to achieve this goal, Hartwig had to stack up on his classes, take courses over the summer and still maintain his practice and training times.
“I’m going to get a great education there [Purdue],” Hartwig said. “It is very structured [the athletic program], and over the last couple of years, the [football] team’s trajectory is good and the program’s producing a really good team. I really like the coaches, which was another reason why I picked Purdue. It’s going to be a really good fit for me.”
As he prepares to embark on his college journey, he is first focused on mentally and physically preparing for the All-American Bowl.
“Knowing that I am going up against guys who are really good, for me it’s balancing the expectations and the mentality that I’m going to give 100% no matter what. There’s going to be guys there who are starting at Clemson next year, and there are going to be some guys who are going to be in the NFL. It’s going to be a lot of fun. When we get to Texas, we’re going to practice—a two- to three-hour practice—and then we will have half day of community service, media day and some team building [activities] and time just getting used to the field. It’s going to be a pretty structured schedule.”
Hartwig will leave December 30 and will be joined by his family who will travel to Texas to cheer Hartwig on. Meanwhile, a watch party is being organized for all who wish to come to Cobblestone to watch the All-American Bowl that will be nationally televised live on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, on NBC at 1:00 p.m. ET. Zionsville Monthly and Cobblestone will share details as they become available, but save the date!