The 2018-19 school year was a busy and successful one for Jace Friesen. The senior was on teams that went far in the state tournaments and a recipient of many awards during his final high school year.
Friesen was asked what his favorite memories were in such an eventful year.
“Wow, this is a tough question,” Friesen said. “My favorite athletic memory would be in football. It would be the touchdown I had this year against Eudora. I had a scoop-and-score. That or the strip sack I had against Leavenworth. That was actually returned for a touchdown. That was one of my favorite athletic memories.
“School-wise, it was of course graduation. Graduating and that whole process of getting up and walking across the stage. Every senior is going to take it with them moving forward.”
The senior helped the Basehor-Linwood Bobcats to a 10-2 record in football and finished as a state semifinalist. Friesen also participated in basketball and track for the Bobcats. In basketball, the Bobcats went 21-3 to finish as the 5A state runner-up. In the spring season, Friesen was a state qualifier in the discus and took seventh at the state meet. Friesen received multiple postseason honors after the football season after leading the team in tackles with 80. He was voted the team’s hardest working player for the fourth straight year. He was a finalist for the Bobby Bell Award, an all-Simone team member, 810 Sports small class defensive lineman of the year, Sports in Kansas Top 100 Senior, Sports in Kansas sack leader, United Kansas Conference defensive player of the year, first-team all-UKC defensive line, Kansas Football Coaches Association 4A all-state, 4A first-team defense by the Topeka Capital-Journal and Wichita Eagle 4A defensive honorable mention. Friesen was also featured as the top long snapper in the state in the Kansas Pregame magazine. He was selected to play on the USA Football international bowl team on the 19-under team and the East team for the 2019 Kansas Shrine Bowl. The senior was also the winner of the 2018 Dylan Meier Get Busy Livin’ Award by Kpreps.com
The GBL award is given out by Kpreps.com for their player of the year. It is named after Dylan Meier, a former Pittsburg High School and Kansas State quarterback. Meier died in a hiking accident in 2010 at age 26. According to the Kpreps site, the award is given out to someone who shows excellence on the field but also demonstrates values Meier embodied in adventure, fitness, curiosity and a daily zest for life experience.
During the successful football season, Friesen also spent time with Westin Brown, a young boy who is battling leukemia for the second time.
Westin’s father, Tom, said Friesen was never too busy for Westin in a Kpreps’ article announcing Friesen winning the award.
Friesen often goes over to the Brown’s house to play with Westin. Friesen helped organize football shirts that brought awareness to the boy’s fight and had the entire Bobcats team sign a football that was given to Westin at a BLHS home game. Through the help of his mother, Friesen also set up a bone marrow registry drive through the Gift of Life foundation and got nearly 100 applicants.
Friesen was given the award in May at the annual GBL 5K.
Friesen said he was taken back by the honor when the Meier family called him to tell Friesen he won the award.
“I was walking out of track practice,” he said. “I was getting to my car after a long day of throwing. I had a phone call and didn’t recognize the number. I thought ‘well, should I answer the phone?’ Because you never know what could come from a phone call. So I answered it and it was the Meier brothers who told me. So it really hit me there when they told me. I sat in my car and I was in shock when they were talking to me. It’s a big honor and really means much to me so when I was told I won, I was very humbled. It really hit home and means something for me.”
He mentioned how it was even an honor for him and the other nominees (Dylan Downing of Bishop Miege, Gage Friess of Parsons, Hunter Igo of Derby, Max Seibolt of St. Thomas Aquinas and Trey Sides of Phillipsburg) just to be nominated for the award.
He also said the Shrine Bowl was an “amazing experience.” He said he knew a few of the guys going into the June 8 game with Friesen originally going to school with Wyatt Grable of St. James Academy and Cooper Beebe from Piper when all three were kindergartners at Piper.
But he said it became a huge brotherhood after the first couple of practices with him having new friends from around the state.
While he said it was neat to meet the other football players who were there, Friesen talked about how impactful meeting some of the various patients of the Shriners Hospital for Children.
One of the kids he mentioned was a baseball player named Eli. Friesen said Eli still plays despite having a hand deformity. He also mentioned an amputee boy who also plays baseball and the impact that those two and others had.
“Meeting all those kids and those stories were the main focus,” he said. “That was something that blew me away. Some of those kids have gone through so much and they’re still so happy with life. They almost embody the Get Busy Livin’ mentality and live life to the fullest. They say ‘why not me?’ and work in being the best they can be every single day. So that was a really neat experience.”
The Shrine Bowl was also Friesen’s birthday so he said that also “cool.”
A week later, Friesen was honored again at the second annual Best of Kansas Preps awards banquet.
The banquet presented by the Topeka Capital-Journal honored more than 800 of the best high school athletes across the state and Friesen was one of the players honored for football.
He said it was a “huge honor” to be at the event.
Former Kansas State and NFL standout Jordy Nelson spoke at the event and Nelson credited Jon McGraw as an inspiration when Nelson decided to be a walk-on at K-State.
McGraw is Friesen’s cousin and McGraw and Nelson have both been inspirations for Friesen as he will be a walk-on for the football team at Kansas State.
Friesen will be grayshirting this fall, meaning he will not be a full-time student or member of the team until the spring semester in 2020.
He is using the time between high school and college to continue to work out and grow stronger.
He does various workouts, including individual work with former Nebraska linebacker and former Basehor assistant Michael Rose-Ivey and has worked on long-snapping thanks to McGraw, who played in the NFL with the New York Jets, Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs.
The biggest adjustment though has been Friesen adopting a new diet and cutting out things like pop.
He still isn’t fully decided on what his major will be yet. Friesen has multiple family members who are teachers so he brought up going into teaching. But he also talked about going into the agriculture business. The one thing that he does want to do is coaching. Friesen even said he wants to try to be a graduate assistant at a school after he gets his bachelor’s degree so he can get his master’s paid for and still coach.
During the basketball season, a Twitter account called “Did Jace Score?” (@DidJace) popped up online.
“We answer the question. Did Jace score?” in the account’s bio. Friesen said the account was started by Rodney White, the Bobcats’ announcer for football and basketball.
“Rodney is an awesome dude,” he said. “One night I got done with a basketball game and Rodney said ‘I don’t know if you scored tonight. But I know you had more charges than if you scored.’ So I said ‘yeah, that is kind of how my game is. I just go and do my thing and what happens happens.’ The next day I get a follow from this account called ‘Did Jace Score?’ and it has my picture from my Drake visit and thought it was hilarious.”
Friesen finished as the all-time charge leader in school history.
He said some of the schools that were recruiting him for football found the account and followed it too.
He said the account was brought up during visits.
“It started as a joke and turned into something better than a joke,” he said. “There are some slow-motion videos of me shooting free throws on there. Anytime I would get a charge or score Rodney would tweet it out. So big shoutout to him. He is an amazing announcer and this was his first year doing this. He did a killer job.”