Being battered and bruised as an athlete did not prevent Jake Ratzlaff from excelling in three sports. The Rosemount senior received offers from Big Ten schools in all of them — football, hockey and baseball.
"I always loved playing football, hockey and baseball," said Ratzlaff, whose performances in his senior year earned him recognition as the Star Tribune All-Metro Boys' Athlete of the Year. "It took a lot of dedication, but it was all worth it. I loved every second of it."
Ratzlaff helped the Irish to an undefeated football season last fall. After helping the hockey team to a 20-win season as a junior, he missed the senior season with a shoulder injury. He returned this spring to the baseball team, even though he wasn't ready to play a field position, and helped it win the South Suburban Conference title.
"I couldn't throw a baseball this year at all, so I had to DH," Ratzlaff said. "That was fine, but I enjoy playing third base a lot more. I want to be in the game because if I am not hitting, hopefully, I can make a couple of plays at third to help my team out."
He suffered his shoulder injury in the opening football game of his junior season against Prior Lake. He dived in the end zone trying to make a catch and landed on his shoulder "weird," he said.
"I knew something was wrong right away, but I did not get an MRI until like a year later," Ratzlaff said. "I just played through it and did not think it was that bad."
He found out differently.
"I had torn my labrum on the posterior and anterior 180 degrees around the bottom," Ratzlaff said. "They had to put six anchors in my shoulder, and that was a big procedure."
Being a three-sport standout, Ratzlaff has grown accustomed to playing in pain. He played linebacker/tight end in football and was a defenseman on the ice.
"It has taken a toll on my body, but it doesn't matter because I love what I am doing," he said. "I can handle all the stuff that comes with it as long as I do the right thing."
Ratzlaff is headed to Wisconsin to play football even though as an eighth-grader he had given a verbal commitment to Minnesota to play hockey. He also was considering the Gophers for football.
"I kind of knew from a young age that I always wanted to play football or baseball," Ratzlaff said. "Those are the two I actually really wanted to play more than hockey. I just developed in hockey a little bit earlier."
College football recruiters starting taking a closer look at the 6-3, 215-pound Ratzlaff as his body started to fill out with age.
"My sophomore year I started to get more notice in football," Ratzlaff said. "As football was progressing and I was getting better it was like, I would rather play football."
Ratzlaff continued to thrive in all three sports, and he advises all young kids to play multiple sports.
"You are going to have so many people telling you to focus on one sport," Ratzlaff said. "Play all sports and see what you love to do.
"You are only going to be young one time and it's going to go by so fast, so try and pack as much in as possible. Have fun with your friends. It is such a great experience and it was the best thing for me. I will never forget any of it."