Former Jacobs lineman George Trojanek, who now plays at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, grabs a ball carrier in a game this season.
Former Jacobs lineman George Trojanek, who now plays at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, grabs a ball carrier in a game this season. — Photo by Chris Trojanek

George Trojanek was stunned by an email he received in early June.

The correspondence was from IMG Academy, a boarding school in Bradenton, Florida which many elite athletes attend for training in various sports, asking if he would like to attend for his senior year.

Trojanek (6-foot, 255 pounds) was a Northwest Herald All-Area second-team selection as an offensive lineman in his junior season at Jacobs and was attracting college interest from schools from FCS to NAIA.

But IMG was not on his family’s radar.

“I said, ‘This can’t be true,’ ” said Chris Trojanek, George’s father. “I sent an email back and they were serious about George coming to IMG. They said they look at a lot of video they get from people. We have some connections. There’s an NFL coach who trains players for the (NFL) Combine and he told them, ‘Here’s a kid you should look at.’ ”

Several weeks later, Chris and Susan Trojanek were dropping their son off in Bradenton. George Trojanek is attending IMG for one semester – he will finish his graduation requirements in December. Chris Trojanek said the tuition normally for a semester is about $47,000, but scholarship money the family received reduced that cost.

“I was mostly considering the financial factor, because it’s not cheap to go here,” George Trojanek said. “I was making sure if I went here it wasn’t going to be too hard on my parents. Once that was made available to us, I made the decision.”

IMG has three teams – a national team, a varsity team and a post-graduate team, which acts like a junior college. Trojanek starts on the defensive line for the varsity team, which is 3-2. The national team is where the highest-recruited players, like former Nazareth quarterback J.J. McCarthy (a Michigan commit) compete.

The COVID-19 pandemic halted football in Illinois because it is considered a higher-rish sport. The IHSA moved football, volleyball and boys soccer to February through May, so Trojanek has an opportunity his former teammates and other area players do not.

“It’s a different experience,” Trojanek said. “It sets the bar high, so you have to raise your own standard of play level. Back wherever you were, you may have been this, but now you have to raise that higher, because everyone is already at a higher point.”

Chris Trojanek said he was considering other transfer options thinking that Illinois might not have football.

“We thought about moving to Pittsburgh,” he said. “My daughter (Isabella) goes to school there, she’s a senior at Pitt. I could work for my company (Konica Minolta) there. We started looking into the transfer process. We never really thought of IMG.”

Until the email arrived.

“He’s a great kid, a good player. I talked to him the other day about how things were going,” Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said. “He’s lucky he’s playing. A lot of kids are missing that opportunity right now. I wish the whole (Fox Valley Conference) had that opportunity he does right now. We have a pretty high level of competition too.”

As an aspiring 9-year-old football player, George Trojanek had no idea what networking even was, even though that’s what he was doing.

Chris Trojanek, who then worked for Canon, met Emil Boures on a business trip to Pittsburgh. Emil had played center on former University of Pittsburgh coach Jackie Sherrill’s teams that were quarterbacked by Dan Marino.

Boures said if George could keep up with high schoolers, he could come to the camp.

At these camps, Trojanek met some legendary Pitt players, most notably NFL Hall of Famer Russ Grimm. Through the years, coaches like Boures, Grimm, Paul Dunn and others kept tabs on Trojanek, who would be a senior at Jacobs this year.

George Trojanek looks forward to playing in college. Some of his top schools heading into his senior season were Valparaiso, an NCAA Division I FCS school from the Pioneer Football League, D-III St. Norbert and NAIA Roosevelt. He hopes playing at IMG will get him even more notice.

During training camp, the teams practiced together, but when the season starts, the national and varsity teams practice separately.

“He is one happy kid,” said Chris, who has seen most of George’s games in person. “He is getting the best coaching possible. When you have a chance to put your kid in front of all these guys … and he’s got a starting spot.”

The exposure to several coaches with NFL and college experience also may benefit Trojanek down the road. He has set a lofty goal for his career – to become an NFL general manager.

“If you don’t set your goals high, then you can’t achieve great things,” George Trojanek said. “At first, I thought I wanted to go into coaching, but then I found GMs have a longer shelf life. And as I have grown in football, I have grown accustomed to recognizing talent. The path to becoming a GM is through scouting. The plan is pretty simple: Send out letters looking for internships to every single NFL team, then once I am on the inside, work as hard as possible to get to the GM level.”