Inspiring athlete: Desert Mountain’s Jacob Graulich takes leap of faith in playing football

Jacob Graulich (submitted photo)

Ever since he was 4-years-old, Desert Mountain High School rising senior Jacob Graulich had played baseball and had aspirations to play collegiately.

That all changed this last fall.

Graulich made the decision to make the leap to play football. Once Graulich made that decision, Sari Smith — Graulich’s father’s girlfriend also referred to as a “bonus mother” — said he started waking up at 4 a.m. to work out in preparation for joining the team.

“For a teenage boy, or anyone for that matter, to take a chance not knowing what the future holds is inspiring, especially for his senior year” Ms. Smith said in a May 31 email to the Independent.

Graulich had a goal in mind when he started his early morning workouts.

“It helps me get better, stronger, and more prepared,” he said in a June 7 email response to questions. “I enjoy working out and weight-lifting because of all of the benefits it provides.”

His work has paid off. Ms. Smith said Graulich has won a big man competition and he’s working at playing either running back, full back or a defensive linemen.

Desert Mountain Head Football Coach David Sedmak said Graulich’s effort has been “outstanding” since he joined the team.

“He is one of our most committed, hard working players, and he was an already strong kid who has become even stronger and more powerful,” Coach Sedmak said. “The kids have accepted him with open arms because he has a great attitude and they realize how much he’ll help us this season.”

But there’s more to Graulich’s life than just sports. Ms. Smith said Graulich works as a peer leader at Desert Mountain working with students with “challenges.”

He also works with the Miracle League of Arizona, a non-profit organization aimed at creating a “safe, successful and enjoyable baseball” for those with disabilities or special health care needs. Ms. Smith said Graulich “glows when he talks about each and every experience.”

The Independent reached out to Graulich to better understand who he is and what his experience has been like taking a chance in going out for football.

Jacob Graulich (submitted photo)

Why do you enjoy sports? I’ve made a lot of good friends and have a bond with my teammates. It’s a great way to have fun and stay healthy and active.

Why did you decide to try football? I wanted to try something new and be in a physical, contact sport.

What is your favorite part of football? The camaraderie within the teammates and tackling people.

What goals do you have for football? To have a healthy season, have fun, make it to state and win.

How has the team been towards you since joining? They were welcoming and excited to have me on the team in order to help the team be successful. I’ve been friends with some of them for years so they helped make the transition easy.

Describe a moment when the team made you feel welcome or helped you learn: They walked me through the plays and explained anything I needed help understanding.

Was there ever a moment in which you wanted to turn back? I’ve pushed through and never looked back.

What’s been the best part of this whole journey joining football? A change in my life. A different routine, the challenge and a new start.

Why do you volunteer as a peer leader at school? I like helping them learn and being around all of the kids makes my day better. They are all super funny and great kids, I enjoy helping them out.

What is the most rewarding part? Knowing that you did something good. When you know you’ve made a difference and you see the smile on their face.

What is your advice to someone who wants to try something new but may be afraid to try it: Do what you want to do and go for it.

Editor’s Note: If you have an inspiring athlete who you believe should have their story told, email sports reporter Josh Martinez at with details on that story.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at or at 623-445-2738

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