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Krizman proves that hard work pays

College-bound running back has paid dues to reach state football pinnacle

Jacobe Krizman’s senior year at Hood River Valley High School was astonishing to say the least.

Some may even call it divine.

The three-sport standout, who became known to his peers as “Jesus,” did everything but walk on water during the 2002-03 school year.

As he rewrote the Class 4A rushing record books in the fall, Krizman became Hood River’s most revered athlete since mid-90s softball superstar, Crystal Draper.

He then added to his legacy by placing fifth in the state in wrestling, earning second-team all-conference honors in lacrosse, and being named the HRVHS Male Athlete of the Year.

There were times when it appeared Krizman could do anything.

“Jacobe knows what it takes to be great,” said friend and three-sport teammate Nate Dethman. “The thing that separates him is that he’s willing to put in the work when most other guys would quit.”

Krizman’s athletic skills, combined with his tireless work ethic and natural leadership ability, helped him earn a permanent place in Hood River sports lore.

“When all those records started falling and the whole state was watching us, it seemed like Jake could walk on water,” Dethman recalled. “It didn’t matter how much we were down. He was going to help us find a way to win.”

Krizman guided the HRV football team to the best 4A season in school history (9-2), while racking up 2,845 rushing yards and scoring 44 touchdowns in 11 games.

He was the team’s backbone on both sides of the ball, earning Intermountain Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors to go with a second-team all-conference selection at linebacker and a place on the all-state first team.

“I had no idea all that was going to happen,” said Krizman, who will play in the annual Les Schwab Bowl tonight at 7 p.m. at Portland’s PGE Park.

“Before the season started, I joked with my brother that I was going to lead the state in rushing. And sure enough, I was at the top all season,” he said.

Never before had Hood River Valley football seen this kind of a statewide uproar. Even when the Eagles won the 3A state title in 1989, they didn’t have the horsepower of the state’s leading rusher.

Krizman soon became a household name in every Oregon football community as the Portland TV stations and newspapers made their way down the Gorge to catch a glimpse of history.

“There are millions of memories from last season, and it’s hard to pick one that stands out,” he said. “But I’d have to say the playoff win was the highlight. I watch the game tape every night, and it’s amazing how we kept pulling stuff off.”

HRV set numerous state playoff records on Nov. 8 vs. Lakeridge, pounding out 84 points, 625 rushing yards and 12 offensive touchdowns.

Krizman also posted his fifth 300-yard effort of the season in that game. But his 335-yard total was only good enough to place him third on the all-time list at HRV.

Behind only himself.

Southern Oregon University’s newest tailback set a new HRV school mark the same night he broke the state record — Oct. 25 at Crook County, when he piled up an unimaginable 352 yards.

“I remember looking at the seniors when I was a freshman and thinking they were the best I had ever seen,” Krizman said of the Kevin Holcomb-led 1999 team.

“And then, all of a sudden, our team was even better. The whole experience was pretty unbelievable,” he said.

*****

Despite all of Krizman’s on-the-field accomplishments, he claims that they don’t stack up to his most significant achievement of all: Earning a high school diploma.

“Being able to say that I’ve graduated is what I’m most proud of,” said Krizman, who admitted he went through his first two years of high school before truly realizing the value of an education.

“It’s definitely an achievement because not everyone does it. And to be able to say that I’m going to college is an even bigger deal. So big that it hasn’t really hit me yet,” he said.

Krizman will attend Southern Oregon University in the fall on a full tuition scholarship — something he is very grateful for, considering that only two years ago, he didn’t know what his future held.

“I know that I’m going to have to work hard to keep my grades up during the season,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge because the coaches are going to work us hard.

“But I feel very fortunate to have an opportunity to play at the college level, and there’s no way I’m going to mess it up,” he said.

Krizman says that he will be just as driven at Southern as he was in his final two years at HRV, and hopes the transition will be made easier with life-long friend Tommy Owyen joining him on a half-tuition scholarship.

Owyen became an all-conference offensive tackle last fall, and was just one of the many players Krizman credits for helping him reach his historic milestones.

Both players will begin training for the Raiders’ upcoming season in Ashland on Aug. 20, and Krizman couldn’t be any more excited.

“It will be a lot of fun,” he said. “Tommy and I have known each other forever, which will make it easier to get settled down there. Plus, the coaching staff is really cool, and they remind me a lot of the staff here at the high school.”

Krizman knows that the transition into the college game will not be an easy one. But after all that he has overcome in his 18 years, those around him are certain that his future is bright.

“Jake has never been one for standing around,” Dethman said. “He always wants to get out there and show what he can do.

“But he’s not all about the fame either. He’s actually a pretty level-headed guy who knows when to have fun. That’s why I think he’ll succeed wherever he goes.”

Which is exactly what Krizman has done in all his life’s endeavors thus far, athletic or otherwise. He is no stranger to hard work, and is willing to put in the extra effort to reach his full potential, both on and off the field.

“Most people in Hood River will probably remember me for football,” he said. “But I want to be remembered as being a hard worker.”

Krizman talks of playing Division I football some day, as well as “breaking all the rushing records at Southern.” He also plans to put his heart and soul into academics, with aspirations of becoming a sports trainer and football coach.

“I’m looking at this scholarship as a golden opportunity,” he said. “A couple years ago, I didn’t even consider this a possibility.

“But it just goes to show that if you put everything you’ve got into something, good things are going to happen.”

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