CHAMPAIGN – His prep football career had come to an end minutes before. But the type of person he is and the sense of humor he exudes, John Wienke couldn't help but crack a joke.
Asked how he felt about his high school career ending, Wienke said, "I still have a semester left, it's not over."
Sure, he was disappointed the Warriors lost 35-7 to Galena in the Class 1A state championship game. That they will never know how they really stack up against the Pirates because they played without nine players who were suspended earlier in the week. And that he threw two interceptions.
But Wienke wasn't going to let one day destroy the memories he piled up during the last four years. He spoke highly of his teammates, and how much he's going to miss playing with them when he's at Michigan next year. He talked about how much fun they had while winning 26 of the 28 games with him as their starting quarterback, including Tuscola's first state championship in 2006.
"I owe a lot of the credit to my teammates for where I'm at right now," Wienke said. "They're a big reason why I'm going to Michigan and have the opportunity that I do. But the last four years with them, I don't think anyone could ask for more."
And his teammates are appreciative of the time they spent with him. Clayton Meyer, who kicked an IHSA record 213 PATs in large part because Wienke led the offense into the end zone so often, said he can't wait to see his friend and former quarterback playing on national TV.
"I was talking about that with my dad the other day. Just the fact that that kid's gonna be starting at Michigan and I can look at him and say 'I caught passes from him,' " Meyer said. "He's just a great player and I hope he does well."
Even before Friday's game, Wienke's coach and father, Stan, noticed his son was relaxed and in a joking mood. So much for any pressure of trying to defend a state title.
"The cop car pulled in front of us today to clear a path for us to come here and somebody's tailgating us, so he's hanging out the window screaming at the car, 'Get out of the way,' " Stan Wienke said. "He wasn't serious but that's just the way he is. And that's what you miss. Every guy's got their own individual quirk to him and that's the thing you miss as kids."
A Wienke is expected to remain under center for Tuscola. John's younger brother Jud, a freshman, saw some action toward the end of the loss to Galena.
"I wish him the best of luck and I hope he gets into the same situation that I'm in," John Wienke said. "He's a hard worker and he's gonna do whatever it takes to get there. And I'm always telling him, 'Just push for the best and you'll do all right.' "
Marcus Jackson covers preps for The News-Gazette. You can reach him at 217-351-5604 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.