By Paul Condry and Matt Kopsea
Jake Tippmann has had plenty of things to be thankful for in 2023.
Not only did the Fort Wayne Snider linebacker help the Panthers capture the Class 5A state football championship with a 33-6 win over Decatur Central, but he was also the recipient of the prestigious Phil N. Eskew mental attitude award for Class 5A.
The accolades continue for the 6-foot, 195-pound Tippmann as he was named a member of the Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Football Coaches Association’s Academic All-Star Team.
He was one of 24 senior student athletes honored for their contributions both on the playing field and the classroom. All of the recipients are ranked in the top five percent of their class.
“Snider football has taught me to strive for excellence in everything I do, most importantly the classroom,” said Tippmann, who came up with a tackle against Decatur Central and maintains a 4.8 grade-point average. “I love to do the best I can and to acquire knowledge.”
In addition to being a team captain for the Panthers (13-1), Jake serves on the IHSAA’s Student Advisory Committee and was selected by his peers as Vice President of his class. He also volunteers with Big Brothers, Big Sisters as a mentor and has worked with fifth grade students for the last two years.
He is on pace to graduate as the class valedictorian this coming spring and wants to study mechanical engineering at Purdue University in the fall of 2024.
“Being able to balance athletics and academics is all about effort and productivity,” explained Tippmann. “If you want to be successful in both, you have to be willing to sacrifice free time in order to do your best in both areas.”
Someone proud of Jake’s overall accomplishments is his father, Snider head coach Kurt Tippmann.
“Jake has been successful in school by devoting the same dedication and engagement that he does on the football field,” said Coach Tippmann. “He is a true learner and really enjoys school and his classes. We are fortunate to have outstanding teachers at Snider High School to guide him along the way and provide for him a challenging and productive learning environment.
“My wife (Martina) and I are extremely proud of Jake because we know how hard he works to achieve this level of success. He and his teammates are a great group of student athletes that genuinely care about each other and support each other through all things that life brings. Jake has been a great representative of many of our student athletes in our football program and their value of education and team work.”
Another recipient getting the chance to close out his high school career on the big stage was North Posey defensive back-wide receiver Jackson Graff, who was selected as the winner of Blake Ress mental attitude award for Class 2A.
“It has been an incredible honor to experience winning the mental attitude award,” said the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Graff, who is expected to graduate first in his class with 4.0 grade-point average. “I feel a renewed sense of pride for my school, peers, and community. My years of hard work have paid off. My favorite part is how more is expected of me as a student, athlete, and leader because of winning the award. A set of expectations motivates me to work harder than ever before while being as impactful of a leader in my community as possible.”
Although the Vikings (13-2) came up short of their goal against Fort Wayne Bishop Luers in the Class 2A state title game, Graff, a four-year performer, two-year team captain, and three-year all-conference selection, contributed 27 receptions for 517 yards with five touchdowns, 54 tackles, four interceptions, and four fumble recoveries.
“Balancing athletics and academics is tough,” explained Graff, who had one catch for four yards, six tackles, and an interception in the 40-3 loss to Bishop Luers. “Long sporting hours mixed with after school homework or activities creates problems if you let it. However, if you work hard, manage your time, and truly care about both your sport and the classroom, then you can overcome any difficult challenges. The key is to seek help and guidance from your peers, family, and faculty.”
Graff also participates in basketball, is Vice President of the senior class, volunteers with Big Brothers-Big Sisters, and is a member of the National Honor Society, SADD, Spanish Club, and Varsity Club.
“Through all the incredible coaches and teachers I have had, my parents stick out to me as the most influential people in my life,” said Graff, who wants to attend Indiana University and study entrepreneurship and corporate innovation. “My mother (Amy) encourages me to be the best student I can possibly be. Meanwhile, my father (Carl) encourages me to be the best athlete I can be.”
NorthWood tight end Seth Russell, who got the opportunity to participate in the Class 4A state title game against East Central at Lucas Oil Stadium, also knows the importance of balancing your schedule between sports and school.
“Everything comes down to time management and the amazing support I have from my teachers, family, and friends,” explained Russell, who managed two catches for four yards in the 42-14 loss to East Central. “My parents have always installed in me that school should come before many other things that are often just fun-time fillers and to always do my best. I look at school kind of like my job, and athletics are my time to have fun and be a kid. Managing time isn’t easy and I am far from perfect at doing it well, but I value working hard in the classroom and in athletics because I know it will set me up for my future endeavors.”
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Russell did his part to help the Panthers (12-3) to a Class 4A state runner-up finish with 31 receptions for 342 yards with two touchdowns and two tackles from his linebacker spot.
“My parents have been the driving force to be my best and do what I enjoy,” Russell said. “They have supported me through everything I’ve done and have always been there to help keep me motivated and on track when school gets rough. I’ve had a few teachers and coaches throughout my school years who have also really seen potential and pushed me to be the best I could be. God has blessed me with an amazing drive for achieving success and an amazing circle of people who have poured into me in so many ways in order for me to achieve excellence.”
One of the individuals paving the way for Heritage Hills to reach the Class 3A state championship game against Indianapolis Bishop Chatard was two-way lineman Braxton Schaefer, who helped the Patriots (13-2) average nearly 350 yards of offense per game.
In addition to being the winner of the Blake Ress mental attitude award for Class 3A, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound standout is ranked first in his class, a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Beta Club, and heads up the Math Academic Bowl Team.
“Balancing academics and athletics is beyond challenging,” explained Schaefer. “Finding time to do a project on top of completing hours of practice can be mentally draining. It is this challenge that I seek out during my high school career. In the future, balancing work and life will be just as challenging. I see this balance as part of life as opposed to something that will hold me back and choose to embrace it. Practicing the balance now will set me up for success in the future.
The lone returner up front from a year ago, he earned all-Pocket Athletic Conference honors and was also a four-year letterwinner in wrestling, where he advanced to the 2023 semistate round and won the Pocket Athletic Conference championship in the 182-pound weight class.
“My parents have always been the driving force behind my commitment to excellence on and off the field,” Schaefer said. My parents (Brock and Michelle Schaefer) are supportive and outgoing to push me to do my best. To them, it isn’t the grades or the playing time that makes them proud of me. They will only be disappointed if I do not give my best effort. My parents will always leave me with the burning question: Did you put in enough effort? Every day I strive to be able to come home and tell them: yes, yes, I put in every ounce.”
He is currently undecided on his college plans, but is interested in pursuing mechanical engineering.
Other players selected on offense were Perry Central wide receiver Aiden Labhart, Wawasee wide receiver Lucas Linder, Harrison (West Lafayette running back Ethan Popp, Noblesville running back Logan Shoffner, McCutcheon quarterback Owen Smith, Evansville Mater Dei lineman James Bohleber, Delta lineman Corbin King, Danville lineman Garrett Hayse, Columbia City offensive lineman Joel Yager, Wabash kicker Troy Guenin-Hodson, and Pendleton Heights punter Wesley Kupferer.
Also chosen on the defensive side were Lawrence Central lineman Reid Hardin, Scottsburg lineman Jaxson Barnett, Winchester lineman Andrew Toney, Fairfield lineman Caleb Borkholder, West Central linebacker Spencer Leman, Highland linebacker Nick Johnsen, New Haven linebacker James Hardy IV, North White cornerback Eli Quasebarth, and Springs Valley cornerback Konner Chase.