Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Czech native, Badger grad shines for St. Norbert

by Mike Ramczyk

December 20, 2012

Bohacek (far right) had 7.5 sacks as a senior defensive end.
Green Bay Packers star Clay Matthews isn't the biggest defensive lineman on the field, but he makes up for it with explosive quickness and a tenacious pass rush.

Petr Bohacek's game is a lot like Matthews'.

The 22-year-old 2008 Badger High School graduate, a native of the Czech Republic, played one season at Badger after playing quarterback at his high school in Europe. At only 6-feet, 215 pounds, Bohacek relied on his quickness and was an all-conference linebacker for the Badgers.

He stayed in America and played four years at Division 3 St. Norbert College, culminating with a conference title and second team all-conference honors this past fall.

After injuries plagued Bohacek much of his college career, he switched from linebacker to defensive end for his junior and senior seasons. After leading the conference in sacks his junior year, he suffered an ankle injury and surgery ended his season. However, Bohacek persevered and registered 7.5 sacks his senior season with 45 tackles.

He runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, and he is studying abroad in Argentina next semester. Bohacek lives with Bill Mott's family in Lake Geneva. The Motts only missed two of Petr's college games in four years.

Also a hockey lover, his girlfriend played hockey at St. Norbert. She lives in Sweden, and the two don't know each other's native languages so they speak English together.

The Regional News caught up with Bohacek to discuss football, sports in Europe and a future in international studies.

RN: Why did you move to defensive end from linebacker?

PB: They wanted to get me on the field. I was always pretty strong and explosive for my size. They wanted an athletic defensive end. Both d-ends are pass rushers, converted linebackers.

RN: Take me through your injury history.

PB: I've been struggling with injuries my whole career. My junior year, I was leading the conference in sacks, but after six games, I broke my ankle and was out and had to have surgery. I tried to rehab for two months but I couldn't do anything. The recovery process was really long. That ended my junior year. I wasn't able to run the whole offseason.

RN: How did you get back to football for last season?

PB: I trained at Badger over the summer the last two years with Coach (A.J.) Curtis. He was a big part of why I could play defensive end. He was a defensive tackle at Iowa. He was my mentor because he wasn't big but he was explosive. He helped me with my strength in my lower body. We did a lot of Olympic lifting. I worked on using my hips in everything I do. My sophomore year, I worked with Coach Larenz.

RN: How was your senior season at St. Norbert?

PB: Monmouth beat us, and it was a huge loss and a big disappointment. Then, we won out until the playoffs. In the last game of the season, we beat Lake Forest, Ill., for the conference title, 20-10. We came out really strong. I led the team in tackles and had 2.5 sacks, and the defense was strong. It was a cool way to end my career at St. Norbert. In the playoffs, we lost to St. Thomas, Minn., 40-17 (St. Thomas lost in the D3 national title game).

RN: Do you have a future in football?

PB: Many pro teams in Europe contacted me. So I have to decide if I want to go and keep hurting my body. There are professional leagues in Europe, especially in Germany, Finland and Sweden. I had several teams offering me good deals. A lot of people in Europe watch American football.

RN: Tell me about your background.

PB: I'm from Prague, Czech Republic. I came here senior year. I played football in Czech for four or five years. My coach was Zach Harrod, the son of Doug Harrod (current Badger teacher). I played quarterback for Zach there. He helped me get in touch with the Motts. When I came here, I was already 18. I would've only been a junior in the Czech after two years of high school.

RN: How popular is football in Europe?

PB: It's nowhere near as popular as soccer. The NFL is on TV. Football is pretty big in Germany, there are legitimate professional teams. It's growing in Europe. Just about every country has its own league. Also, there's a Euro Bowl where all the teams across Europe compete for the championship. They'll pay the coaches and American players, but they may not pay their domestic players. The best leagues are in Germany and Austria.

RN: Could the best European players play in the NFL?

PB: I don't think anyone has made it, maybe the practice squad. What's more likely is a foreign-exchange student playing in college in America and making the NFL. The overall level of play compares to Division 3 college football in America.

RN: Why did you want to come to America?

PB: To play football. America is the home of football. You don't just call it football, you call it American football.

RN: What's the biggest difference between the Czech Republic and America?

PB: I come from Prague, which is a huge city. There isn't much of a difference. We see the same movies and listen to the same music. People are a lot nicer here. In Wisconsin, people are really welcoming even if they're strangers. In Prague, people are more indifferent. Here, people care a lot more, and I think it's a special thing for Wisconsin.

RN: What are your football strengths?

PB: Quickness is the biggest part of my game. Making plays in the backfield is huge. On a run, I try to get better leverage and use my hips to lift up a lineman. On a pass play, I try to work on half his body and get past him. Also, I dropped in coverage a lot.

Bill Mott (Petr's host parent): He's like the Clay Matthews of St. Norbert.

RN: Tell me about your family in Czech Republic.

PB: I grew up living with my mom and grandma. My mom loves football. She wanted me to come here for one year, but it was hard for her to let me go for four more years. She watched every game online, and she enjoyed watching me play here as much as I enjoyed playing.

RN: How is education in Europe?

PB: We are not required to go to high school. There's a work-focused high school and a gymnasium, which preps you for college. We don't play sports for schools, we just play for club teams. Here, the whole school is behind you, and I love that. You would never have 3,000 people at a game in Europe. At St. Norbert, we had 3,000 people at every home game. It's remarkable how football brings the whole community together.

RN: What are you majoring in?

PB: I am a double major with international studies and political science. Next semester, I am studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Now, I will either play football professionally in Europe or go to grad school. I will graduate after next semester. For my major, I chose Latin America and Spanish.

RN: What's your dream job?

PB: I would like to do some kind of foreign policy or international politics. I would love to travel and maybe be an ambassador for the Czech Republic.

RN: When did you start playing sports?

PB: When I was 6 or 7 years old, I started playing hockey. I played until I was 14 or 15. I went to a special hockey school. In 1998, the Czech hockey team won the Olympics, and I was hooked. The hockey guys were heroes. In my neighborhood, there was a concrete hockey rink. One of my friends was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings three years ago.

RN: How do you compare football and hockey?

PB: Football is harder and tougher. You have a lot more pads in hockey.

RN: How was your one year playing for Badger?

PB: Jared Stan was the man. We lost in the first round of the playoffs to Verona. We had so much talent. I think I was second team all-conference. Coach Hensler is very good, and all the coaches know what it takes to win. They get the kids in the weight room. I came here as a quarterback, and I never tackled anyone in the Czech Republic. I was a fifth-string quarterback at first for Badger, but I wasn't familiar with the offense. They put me on defense as a linebacker, and it worked out. I started on defense and had a pretty good season.

RN: Do you have any hobbies besides football?

PB: Weight lifting and training for football. I don't know what I'm going to do with my life now. It takes an extreme amount of commitment. I would spend two hours a day training at Badger High School in the summers.

RN: Do you have time for friends?

PB: I did just about everything with my teammates. My girlfriend lives in Sweden. She went to St. Norbert for two years, and now she's back home. She was a hockey player at St. Norbert. She speaks Swedish, and I speak Czech. Neither of us know either language, so we have to speak English.