Whether he is on the football field or his family's farm fields, Marquette Academy's Michael Killelea has proven himself to be an outstanding student-athlete who is dedicated to his folks, friends and future.
The 18-year-old Killelea, affectionately nicknamed "Tank" by his closest buddies, is known in the local high school sports community as one of the strongest lineman (both offensive and defensive) to play on Marquette squads in recent years. He was credited for a team-best 70 tackles last season alone.
Now, as graduation nears, the solid 5-foot-10, 215-pound student, who has been on his school's honor roll every semester for his entire high school career, believes he is prepared for both the academic and sports worlds of college.
"I plan to major in Ag-Business and I have won a scholarship to play football at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville," Killelea said. "The (Platteville) staff was welcoming and knowledgeable about the program. I loved the atmosphere I felt there while visiting the campus. I'm really looking forward to it."
This fall, Michael will join his older brother, Patrick, who will be a senior at the same Wisconsin university.
When Killelea was chosen as The Times Newspaper's 2017 Football Player of the Year, Marquette coach Tom Jobst praised the young man in print. The coach said there are other positions Killelea would have loved to play, but he understood he was needed on the offensive and defensive lines, where glory is harder to find, since it's a rarity to get the football.
“Michael epitomizes what a great player is all about,” Jobst explained. “He was always an outstanding player in his own right from the physical standpoint. He’s had energy, speed, agility, strength, all of those things that great athletes have and a lot have them, but what sets him at a higher level is an attitude, a spirit. He’s one of the most unselfish, hardest working players I have ever had."
Following the newspaper's award announcement, Killelea, who is looking forward to the fall football career at Platteville, said, “When you see honors like this at the end of the year, it just means a lot to see all the hard work pay off. I’ve been working for this since seventh grade, lifting and doing workouts after school, so it’s a really nice feeling."
Marquette instructor Mike Hall said, "Through Michael's strong work ethic and commitment to service, Michael has left a positive mark on our school and the community. He has been a pleasure to teach and coach; we are all really proud of him."
Principal Brooke Rick agrees.
"Michael is a very hardworking, trustworthy and dependable young man," Rick said. "Michael is always willing to help, when and where needed and his commitment to service is outstanding. He takes great pride in all that he does. He has the tremendous character and leadership qualities that few students possess these days."
When Michael is not studying, lifting weights, playing Marquette varsity baseball or hanging out with his friends, he enjoys working on the hundreds of acres at the family farm.
"It's always nice to be out on a tractor working the fields," he said. "I enjoy the time to myself." He said he also enjoys the "great" lunches from his grandmother, Sandra Killelea, often prepared during planting and harvest seasons.
Michael also has worked summers doing maintenance work around the Academy. He also is a teacher's aide for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes at St. Columba Church in Ottawa.
"I enjoy spending time with the kids," he said.
His mother, Brenda, believes it was being the youngster of three siblings which helped shape the teenager into the person he is today.
"Michael is a quiet person, but he is not shy," Brenda said. "He has always made friends easy and has always made the right, wise decisions. He has a good sense of what is important. He also take his schooling, sports, faith and family seriously. His father (Bryan) and I taught Michael to respect others and he shows that respect in everything he does."
Within all the accolades, perhaps one of the biggest compliments earned during Killelea's Marquette years came from the school's athletic secretary Sandy Kottek who said, "Michael is one of the good ones. He's a special kind of kid — the kind who leaves footprints on your heart. He will be missed here."