Joliet Central quarterback Paul Slick looks to reach new heights in final season

Senior hopes to guide Steelman to 1st victory since 2019

Joliet Central’s Paul Slick takes the snap against Joliet West on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023 in Joliet.

It’s the summer of 2021.

Athletic programs are still trying to get back to normal after the weirdness of the COVID-19-shortened season.

Thomas Hart heads to his first weightlifting session as the new head coach of Joliet Central. With the program coming off a winless season, only three players show up.

One of them was incoming freshman Paul Slick. Hart admired a kid so young was showing up to voluntary workouts. He didn’t know back then how often he’d see Slick over the next few years.

“I don’t think he’s missed a lifting day since then,” Hart said. “That’s who he is. He shows up, he wants to work and he wants the team to be successful as a whole. He puts it on his shoulders to make it happen.”

Fast forward two years. The Steelman are coming off a winless campaign in which Slick rotated with two other quarterbacks. Going into his junior year, he looked to take on more of a leadership role – handle more responsibility and be the player everyone counted on.

“His junior year, he had a good offseason,” Hart said. “He just said, ‘I’m going to be the guy. I’m tired of this rotating stuff so I’m going to do it.’ ”

Move forward to the fall of 2023. Slick is now the sole starter for the Steelman at QB. Although they went winless again, for the first time in several years, Joliet Central ended the season without being shutout in a single contest. Slick threw for seven touchdowns and ran for another.

That brings us to the summer of 2024. Slick is entering the final season of his high school career before hopefully heading to college to continue playing.

As noted, he’s always been a hard worker, but with only one more year at Joliet Central, Slick is trying to break through to a new level.

“I’m definitely trying to take my training a step further,” Slick said. “I’m trying to work more outside of practice to get better personally and help the team. I’m trying to help my teammates get work in so we can gain further knowledge of our offense.”

Slick said his primary focus has been on improving his fundamentals. He believes that having sound fundamentals can help him be great at anything, so he’s working to sharpen his throwing, footwork, arm strength and flexibility.

And of course, that all comes with regular attendance.

“I’m the most consistent at getting out there,” Slick said. “I’m always [at practice] even when I don’t need to be there. I’m real coachable so I know how to adjust. I’ve been through a lot of staff changes, and I’m always able to figure things out. I’m also good at lifting others up with my positive mindset.”

Slick views himself as a dual-threat QB with a mindset for making plays. He also pointed to how coachable he is – the triple option offense the Steelmen run wasn’t easy to pick up at first, but he was able to get there with his dedication.

“He’s really stepped up and became a good young man and good leader,” Hart said. “He’s put it on his back that we’re going to go and do this. He helps set the tone for the team which helps me set the expectations.”

Hart praised Slick’s never-back-down mentality, calling him a true Steelman. He also wants to see Slick and the team improve their red zone efficiency and hope that leads to a breakthrough.

Although the Steelmen were competitive at times last year, they still went winless. During Slick’s time in high school, Central has yet to win a game. The last victory for the program was in 2019 and Slick is aware of that. His hope is to play football in college, but more importantly, he wants to leave Joliet Central with the taste of victory.

“I want to win a game and get my name out there,” Slick said. “We’ve been having some rough seasons and haven’t really won, so I want to win some games for sure. I think you’re going to see some good things this season.”