Humans of Harker: Tackling the game with tenacity

Adheet Ganesh approaches football with a determination that inspires others


Julie Shi

“In football, every single play you’ve got to run full speed, you’re hitting guys, you’re making a play on the ball, all sorts of stuff is going on. It’s pretty crazy. It’s pretty fun,” Adheet Ganesh (12) said.

The crowd in the bleachers holds in a collective breath of excitement and anticipation as Adheet Ganesh (12), co-captain of the varsity football team, races towards the end zone, football soaring through the air to him and an opposing player close behind. Adheet looks up at the football falling down behind him, then raises his arms and reaches out to the ball just as the other player does the same. Adheet smoothly catches the ball without breaking stride, and the crowd erupts into cheers. He just scored the first touchdown of Harker’s 2021 homecoming game.

Behind Adheet’s perfect execution of the first touchdown and fierce performance throughout the rest of the game was countless hours of exhausting practice and drills. He never cowered under the work, instead tackling practice with a determined mindset that has inspired those around him.

“[Adheet is] somebody who you would epitomize as a leader by example,” varsity football coach Juston Glass said. “He didn’t need to say anything. He did the work, and people followed, people respected, and people tried to duplicate. Adheet always fought through injuries, he always cared about his teammates, and [he is] probably one of the best athletes that Harker could ever have as far as a whole person and competitive athlete.”

Adheet’s love of football began early, with flag football in elementary school leading to high school tackle football on Harker’s varsity football team. Between two-hour practices every day after school and games at the end of each week, Adheet spends much of his time on the field committed to the sport.

“Football is a really big time sink,” Adheet said. “You’ve got to spend a lot of time both before and after practice. Before practice you’ve got to change into all your gear, then after practice you’ve got to get out of your gear, you’ve got to go home, shower, all that stuff. It is tough, but you work out a way to do it.”

Through the time he has devoted to football both on and off the field, Adheet has fostered grit and determination to work hard at excelling in the sport. He understands the importance of rigorous practice before the game.

“You’ve got to get it done, prepare for the game,” Adheet said. “Because all these practices do really make a difference. Even if you’re not really feeling up to it, you’ve got to make sure you put in your best effort every single play, try to improve yourself.”

As co-captain of the football team, Adheet’s hard work to make the most out of practices has led his teammates to tackle practice with the same energy.

“Whenever he’s doing a drill, whenever he’s running a route, whatever it is, he gives the best effort he possibly can, and we all know that we can watch him do something and we can mirror that ourselves and always strive to model our performance after the way that he acts,” close friend and teammate Pranav Varmaraja (12) said. “Off the field he’s a really humble guy, stand-up character, so we can model our behavior off of him there as well.”

At practice Adheet trains to play both offensive and defensive positions, with a day of practice dedicated to each role, although he prefers playing on the defense over playing on the offense.

“It’s a lot more fun to make plays on defense — there’s a lot more opportunities to make plays,” Adheet said. “[On] offense, [there’s] less getting the ball thrown to you. On defense you have a lot of easier tackles, [you can] hit some guy, maybe bat down a pass. There [are] a lot of chances to involve yourself in the game. It’s a lot more rewarding, too; you feel like you’re making a bigger impact on defense than you do on offense.”

Executing football moves requires proper technique, which is a huge aspect of football, where even minute details covering how players swing their arms when running are drilled down. Adheet works to perfect the tactics during practice and execute them smoothly during games.

“I’m personally not that fast, so I try to focus on my technique more,” Adheet said. “When I’m running routes, I can’t beat them with speed, so I try to give them a good break, try to shake them. When I’m playing defense, I try to have good technique, to be able to guard the guy properly, try to run with him.”

Despite the hours of practice Adheet puts into football before games, he always feels nervous at the start of each game.

“The first two, three minutes, it’s really tough [and nerve wracking], but once you try to get into the rhythm of things, it becomes a lot easier,” Adheet said. “You have to perform at a higher level, [then] things come more natural. You get into the zone.”

Once Adheet is completely absorbed into the game and focused on the ball, excitement and determination replace the nervousness inside.

“You think it’d be really tough [during the game] because you’re running around a lot, but when you’re in game you don’t really feel it,” Adheet said. “I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline or something, but honestly you feel good the entire time.”

Adheet acknowledges that football, especially as a high contact sport, is very physically taxing both in practice and during games.

“The physical element, it’s really tough on your body,” Adheet said. “You do a lot of running. While you may not feel tired, you definitely do get tired. Your pace slows down fourth quarter. Also, you’re getting hit a lot.”

Recalling rough gameplay on the field, Adheet describes tackles made and injuries sustained during games.

“One time I was trying to make a tackle, I got blindsided by some guy,” Adheet said. “I couldn’t see him, he hit me on the side. I got completely ragdolled. I went flying, five feet. [After games] you end up being sore a lot the next day, you get bruises all over the place, burns when you hit the turf. It’s really taxing on your body. Waking up the next morning — God, it’s the worst.”

Yet, despite the toll that football takes on Adheet’s body, the fast-paced plays and physical exertion involved during both practice and games are the very reason Adheet is drawn to football.

“In [other sports such as] baseball, you stand there all the time,” Adheet said. “You either stand on the field or you stand in the dugout. But in football, every single play you’ve got to run full speed. You’re hitting guys, you’re making a play on the ball, all sorts of stuff is going on. It’s pretty crazy. It’s pretty fun.”