Team Traditions: Hermantown Hawks always fly together

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For decades Hermantown football players have been leaving the locker room with a sense of purpose. Not just to uphold a winning tradition, but to honor those that once stood in their cleats.

Every time the Hawks head out for practice or great gridiron battles, they toss their hands up to a small wooden plaque.

"We had a student athlete that passed away for us back in 1999, and this was back when Coach [Daryl] Illikainen was here as the coach, and he kind of exemplified everything that we want in a football player here at Hermantown," said Mike Zagelmeyer, the current head coach for Hermantown football.

A multi-sport athlete Jeremy Byrnes, described by his peers to have heart, passion and spirit, passed away from leukemia a few months after graduating from Hermantown High School in 1999.

"He was kind of what we want our athletes to look up and be, and to have his life snuffed out from him at a very young age, it was something that we wanted to make sure that these kids understand," Zagelmeyer said. "Especially in the days of Covid I think it hits home more now that every day is a gift."

"It means a lot to us players, playing every day for the day it is and don’t take anything for granted," said senior wide receiver Beau Janzig.

The inscription bearing Byrnes’ name is now quite faded, but his impact on the program lives on.

"That means a lot that a lot of us guys are showing our respect and showing our love for the game through that," Janzig added. Because much like ducks, Hawks always fly together.