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Article updated: 6/13/2013 4:48 PM

Wheaton North's Johnny Peltz collects Grange Award

By Dave Oberhelman

It is no surprise recent Wheaton North graduate Johnny Peltz received an award for athletic achievement. In his family, athletic achievement is par for the course.

Thursday at the DuPage Heritage Gallery in Wheaton, Peltz was presented the Red Grange Award on the legendary "Wheaton Ice Man's" 110th birthday, no less.

The Grange Award, a traveling trophy that debuted in 1974, is dedicated annually to the Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 high school football player "who best demonstrates a combination of athletic skill, sportsmanship and scholastic ability," according to longtime Wheaton clothier and Heritage Gallery Executive Director Howard Gaede.

Johnny Peltz certainly qualifies. A Daily Herald All-Area quarterback and two-time all-DuPage Valley Conference pick who last fall scored touchdowns passing, rushing and receiving, Peltz also maintained a 4.73 grade-point average and was twice voted as a team captain.

Directing the Falcons football team to a 10-2 record while completing 70 percent of his passes for 1,891 yards and 19 touchdowns -- and beating crosstown rival Wheaton Warrenville South for the first time in 12 years -- Peltz is the first Falcon to win the Grange Award since 2002.

"It does give me a sense of pride to finally bring it back to Wheaton North," said Peltz, already in drills with his future football team, the Wheaton College Thunder. Also a baseball player, he played third base and shortstop for a 27-9 Falcons team that won a regional title.

"I definitely couldn't have done it without my football coach, Joe Wardynski, and all the rest of the coaches; my football team and, of course, the players I play with, the linemen -- everyone that helps me to look good. And my family, too," Peltz said.

Yes, the family.

His mother, Nancy Swider-Peltz, competed in four Winter Olympics in speedskating, set two world records in the sport and qualified for eight Olympic Trials. Johnny's father, Jeff, is a Wheaton North graduate who played football at Wheaton College where he remains as defensive line coach. The Thunder's head coach is Johnny's uncle, Mike Swider, who has sons Justin and Mike playing for him. Both Nancy and Jeff are members of Wheaton College's Athletic Hall of Honor.

There's more. Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr., Johnny's sister, is also a speed skater who finished ninth at 3,000 meters and finished fourth in Team Pursuit at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Having posted the third-fastest time by an American this year at 3,000 meters, she's training for the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

As is Johnny Peltz's brother, Jeffrey. With less than three years training under his belt, but under his mother's expert coaching, he's training for Olympic slots at 1,000 and 1,500 meters.

It almost goes without saying Johnny Peltz's grandparents included a Northern Illinois University football player and an all-state discus and shot put thrower.

"I feel like they support me a lot," Johnny said of Team Swider-Peltz. "I feel like being athletes, I get great advice from them ... My mom (being) in the Olympics and everything, just the things they share with me. There's no pressure. It's like a family system. They're there for me, supporting me and everything."

"I think a lot of his success comes from a certain calmness, mental control and taking it in stride," his mother said. "A quarterback needs to be clear of mind and not be distracted by the ups and downs of the day."

The prior Red Grange Award recipient was Wheaton Warrenville South's Dan Vitale, named to the Big Ten's All-Freshman Team last season at Northwestern. Grange Award winners include two former NFL quarterbacks, both from Wheaton North, Chuck Long and Kent Graham.

"I might remind Johnny about that a little bit," said Jeff Peltz.

For a player who stands 6 feet, 2 inches that would be a tall order by today's NFL standards. But if there's anything Johnny Peltz has learned from his family of award-winning athletes, it's to go all-in.

"Commitment is big," he said. "They always talk about how once you do something you've got to be committed and fulfill it to the end."

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