JOHNSBURG – C.J. Fiedorowicz hung up his cell phone and looked for something that possibly could support the weight of a life-changing moment.
The closest thing to him was a ticket machine in the hallway of Raymond’s Bowl. Dozens of friends and family members allowed Fiedorowicz some space for a private moment as he leaned into the machine and buried his head into his arms.
This was a dream.
Fiedorowicz’s journey had taken him from the Johnsburg Skyhawks to the Iowa Hawkeyes to the Houston Texans, who made him the first pick of the third round in Friday’s NFL draft. Fiedorowicz became the second-highest draft pick in the history of McHenry County, following in the footsteps of Bryan Bulaga in 2010.
The ticket machine provided the necessary support for a few quiet moments. However, as it turns out, ticket machines don’t hug back.
“Best Mother’s Day ever,” said LeeAnn Fiedorowicz, whose eyes reddened and whose voice cracked as she spoke about her 22-year-old son. “I tried to follow him as much as I could tonight because you don’t know when it’s going to happen.
"We were right there. The whole family was there.”
For that, C.J. Fiedorowicz always will be grateful.
Because nobody knows for certain where his NFL career will lead. How many passes will he catch? How many blocks will he deliver? How many wins will he celebrate?
The future, like Fiedorowicz, is filled with potential.
But no touchdown celebration will be able to match the moment in which Fiedorowicz turned his lifelong dream into a village-wide celebration. Hundreds of people packed the bar and hallways of the bowling alley, where children knocked down pins while adults tipped back bottles to celebrate their hometown hero.
“I love my family and everyone that’s here,” said Fiedorowicz, who graduated from Johnsburg in 2010. “There’s nothing better. I’m not an emotional guy, but this crazy. I’m so happy everyone’s here that I love.”
That included Fiedorowicz’s two older siblings, 26-year-old Kyle and 24-year-old Paige. Both flew in from Pittsburgh earlier in the day so they could celebrate.
LeeAnn Fiedorowicz greeted them with lamb stew. In the car.
It was Kyle’s favorite, and he hadn’t been home in three months. Besides, LeeAnn wanted to keep her mind occupied, so she woke up at 5 a.m. to cook the meal.
“I’ve been a basket case for the whole week,” she said with a laugh. “I can’t even describe the anxiety of the whole thing. I just had to keep busy all day.
“I brought everything in the car. They had the best lamb stew in the car driving home from the airport.”
If you ask the Fiedorowicz kids, their parents are even better than lamb stew.
“Ever since we were little, she’s always showed us work ethic and how you should act and the way you should live your life,” Paige Fiedorowicz said about her mother. “Live every moment to the fullest and work your butt off.
“Same with my dad. I can’t even explain the leadership that they show. It’s like they let us make our own mistakes and they let us learn from them. It’s pretty cool to look at them and be like, ‘Now I get why you did that.’ Because it helped a ton.”
Gary Fiedorowicz smiled at the memories of him and his wife driving all of his children to game after game, practice after practice, camp after camp.
“We did travel basketball, travel baseball,” Gary Fiedorowicz said. “Regular basketball, regular baseball. All of those camps for football.”
The countless miles and endless hard work has paid off.
What perfect timing. It’s Mother’s Day weekend.
“We’re definitely going to enjoy it to the fullest,” Paige Fiedorowicz said. “Because you never can forget this. It’s a once in a lifetime adventure.”
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @tcmusick.