Recent La Salle-Peru graduate Tyler Hartman doesn’t plan to play college football.
But the former Cavalier standout got to put on the pads one more time Saturday as he suited up for the Red team — along with Princeton’s Grant Foes — in the 47 Annual Illinois Shrine Game at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.
“It was definitely a great sendoff for me,” said Hartman, a two-time NewsTribune All-Area selection. “I had a really good time.”
Participating in the Shrine game is about more than football.
In a normal year, the players are taken to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Chicago for a tour and a chance to interact with patients, but the experience was altered this year due to COVID-19.
Players received a virtual tour of the hospital and interacted with children who are patients at Shriner’s Hospital in a Miracle League softball game.
“It was a great opportunity for me first to even be selected,” Hartman said. “That means a whole lot to me personally. To go out there and meet the kids from the hospital, that means a lot. Those kids have been through a lot in their lives. It’s really cool to hear some of their stories and it really makes you think about the way you look at your own life. It was a really great experience all around.”
The Shrine Game raises money for the hospital.
“It was an amazing time. I had a great time,” said Foes, a NewsTribune All-Area pick who will continue his career at Indiana Wesleyan University. “I met a lot of friends and teammates, got to play in a really good game and it was all for a good cause. I was blessed to have the opportunity to play in that game and wouldn’t have traded this week for anything.”
Players reported Tuesday morning and that day met their coaches, started learning the coaches’ systems, had a walkthrough and participated in their first padded practice.
Throughout the week, the teams had two-a-day practices, installed plays on offense, calls on defense and went over special teams in preparation for Saturday’s game.
Outside of football, the players participated in the softball game, had a cookout with Shriners, attended a banquet and had the chance to use IWU’s facilities.
“It was really cool to meet at the guys there and compete with them,” Hartman said. “It kind of gives you a little sense of what college football would be like.”
With players coming from 8-man teams all the way up to Class 8A schools, Hartman said it was interesting to see the talent across the state.
“It was really cool seeing everyone mix together,” Hartman said. “It makes you realize there are great players at all levels. Our defensive MVP for the Red team came from an 8-man football team. He had a nice interception and make some tackles. He was our MVP and he didn’t even play normal 11-on-11 football. It’s crazy to think about all the talent regardless of size of school.”
For Foes, the week was particularly hectic as he was preparing for and competing in the IHSA Class 2A State Track and Field Meet on Friday as well as participating in the Shrine Game activities.
“I had quite a week because I had state on my mind, obviously,” said Foes, who placed fourth in the discus. “Through the course of that, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I had six football practices. That took a toll on me and my body. That’s another reason why I’m happy how I performed at state because I went through a week of football pretty much.”
Hartman played linebacker for the Red squad while Foes played at offensive tackle. The Red team lost 28-20 in overtime.
“I thought I played a pretty decent game,” said Hartman, who had his parents and siblings, out of state family, friends and coaches in attendance for his final football game. “I made some tackles and had some good coverage plays in the passing game. Overall, it was just a really good time.”