Jorgen Hartje is getting a kick out of playing two sports.
The Brainerd High School senior has been a member of the boys' soccer team for three years. This fall, he has juggled his schedule to add football, becoming the first member of the Warriors' soccer team to ever kick for the football team.
Although footballs and soccer balls are dissimilar, the objective and motion to kick either ball is about the same.
Hartje has made a fluid transition to kicking a football. Through six games, he had converted 21 of 24 extra-point attempts, made one of two field goals and averaged 53 yards on kickoffs, including seven touchbacks.
"Kicking a football hasn't been a problem for me, they're basically the same," Hartje said. "You can't swing as hard when you kick a football, it takes a little more patience. If you miss a football, you're in a lot of trouble. You can't get help from anyone else.
"On extra points, you try to get the ball in the air quicker so you don't get it blocked. Field goals aren't much different from extra points, except you try to put more leg on it, depending on where we are. I try not to get too excited about kickoffs. That's when I kick bad. If I just relax, it will go far enough."
The idea to have Hartje play both sports was concocted last spring by football teammates. They approached head football coach Ron Stolski, who later spoke with Hartje and soccer coach David Devine about the possibility.
Stolski said the only drawback with the arrangement has been the lack of time that Hartje has been able to practice kicking a football. Hartje practices about 15 minutes a week with the football team and misses its Thursday special teams workout.
"His first obligation is to soccer," Stolski said. "Thankfully, it has worked out well. That's a compliment to coach Devine and to Jorgen. He barely practices with us. He doesn't practice on Thursdays because they're usually gone playing somewhere.
"He gets about 15 minutes with us on Wednesdays, but a kicker is a kicker. It's just a matter of timing. If and when we get him full-time, and I'm hoping the soccer team wins the state tournament, he's going to be a more valuable player yet."
Devine said Hartje was a logical candidate to be a ground-breaker in the sharing arrangement because of his personality. He said Hartje is also physically fit and has a strong right leg.
"He's in position to do this because of his character," Devine said. "He's a person who's very popular among his peers. There isn't any animosity between soccer and football. With his personality, Jorgen lends himself to be with two distinctly different teams."
The only close call Hartje had occurred Sept. 14 when the soccer team played Grand Rapids at 5 p.m. in Baxter and the football team hosted Detroit Lakes at 7 p.m. Immediately following the soccer game, Hartje raced to Adamson Field. Fortunately, Detroit Lakes kicked off, but six minutes later Hartje attempted, and made, a 25-yard field goal.
"I got there right when they were done playing the national anthem," Hartje said. "I didn't have to kick off right away, but we scored pretty quick."
Devine believes it has been mentally and physically demanding for Hartje to play both sports.
He cited a stretch from Sept. 20-22 when Hartje traveled to Willmar to play a soccer game on Thursday, went to Bemidji on Friday for a football game and was back on the bus 8 a.m. Saturday for another soccer game at Alexandria.
"This young man handled the rigors of hours on buses on three days in succession and performed quite well each day," Devine said. "It's a rare athlete, young man, high school kid, who could do that."
Despite the rigors of his schedule, Hartje said already there is talk among soccer teammates about who might be the next candidate to play both sports.
"It would be fun for other people to do it," Hartje said. "For sure it will open up the gates to other players to do that."
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