MAYVILLE, Wis. — There are many inspirational stories in the high school football playoffs, but maybe none more so than Nick Zitlow. A Mayville football player born with heart issues, and after open heart surgery last year, he's back on the field.
Zitlow is nominated for the WIAA's Spirit of Sport award sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. The winner will be announced in April.
The normal sounds of Friday football, and Zitlow just wants to be a normal kid.
"I did the stress test like normal," Zitlow said. "I was going along like normal. Doing basically as well as I normally did. But they said my blood pressure was dropping and they just said that was a problem. They had stop me from doing it, even though I still felt fine."
"You know we don't have to do anything, until we see some changes," his mother Jodi Zitlow said. "So every time we went, and they said he was fine. We're still measuring it."
Born with a ventricular defect, valve issues and aortic stenosis, Zitlow had to have surgery his junior year to have a shot at his senior season.
"I'd rather miss my junior season and play my senior season. I said I wanted to get it done right away," Zitlow said. "And have the possibility of coming back."
His first step back: Playing baseball. His mom was nervous.
"I had fear his first baseball game, because I was just thinking, when that pitch comes in? He's going to hit the bat. You know, it's going to hit the bat. And I would think it's going to hurt. He had his chest cracked open," Jodi said.
Then came his first post-surgery football game, September 17th.
"Basically, I just wanted to get back in and play," Zitlow said. "Be done with it all."
"He thinks he's invincible," Jodi Zitlow said.
"My teammates asked me if I was scared going into surgery. I guess I was nervous but I wasn't really scared," Zitlow said.
Not to mention, Zitlow was crowned prom king.
"Prom King was exciting," Zitlow said. "I didn't expect that to happen."
"Yeah that was pretty awesome. They were all chanting his name and when they called his name it was pretty cool," Jodi said.
After Mayville upset top seeded Lake Country Lutheran 55-47 last week, the sky's the limit for Zitlow and his team.
"We've been told we've worked hard over the off season. It's gotten better and better. Practiced hard. And we knew that we were going to be pretty good. We have really good athletes on our team. We have really good mentality," Zitlow said.
"It's great. We want more though" Jodi exclaimed with a laugh.