Kristoff Kowalkowski thriving at higher level


Kristoff Kowalkowski continues to thrive on daunting challenges. In the classroom, he is a standout student and while he should be enrolled in seventh grade based on his age, Kowalkowski takes high school honors classes and is fluent in Chinese. On the football field, he is playing at the high school level for Apollo in St. Cloud, Minn. “I’ve really had to adjust my game speed and I have to recognize that these kids are physically and a little mentally stronger than me,” Kowalkowski said. “I have to adjust myself and it’s been kind of tough at times, but it’s a lot of fun.” Over the summer, the varsity coaches at Apollo High School brought in Kowalkowski and asked him to take a big step up in competitive class. Naturally, the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder accepted the challenge and participated with the Eagles’ varsity players on the field and in the weight-room, where he was up at 6 a.m. every day getting stronger. “It’s been a great challenge,” Kowalkowski said. “It’s been hard at times, but there was no doubt in my mind that I could do it. I’m ready for it.”

Meeting the challenge

While he is the backup varsity QB at Apollo, Kowalkowski is starting under center for the Eagles’ JV team. Not suprisingly, he’s doing very well. Through three games, Kowalkowski has helped Apollo go 2-1 while throwing for over 200 yards a game with 6 total touchdowns. “With our offense, we run a lot of spread and I really like it,” he said. “It’s fun. My goals are to continue on with my throwing, concentrate on throwing the ball well. A big goal is moving the chains and winning games.” Since he is competing against players that are older, bigger and stronger, Kowalkowski is not going to rest on the early success he’s having as the starting JV quarterback. That’s not part of his makeup. “I’m trying to get better with my footwork and get to a point where I’m consistently able to release the ball quicker,” he said. “These kids are coming in a lot faster than I’m used to, so I’ve had to adjust my mechanics and become faster. I’m really happy with how we’re playing as a team, but I’m working hard to improve every game.”

Another Duel win

Kowalkowski is playing way up in class this season, but he came in with an added dose of confidence after winning the Duel this summer among incoming seventh graders. It was the second time he’s won NFA’s showcase event in three years. “Winning the Duel gave me a lot of confidence,” Kowalkowski said. “It tells me that I’m good at what I do.” Kowalkowski has also benefited from training with NFA the past five years. “They’ve helped me so much with my mechanics, with everything you need to be a better quarterback,” he said. “I’m able to take what I learn from NFA and use it in my games.” While he still a very young player performing at arguably the most challenging position in sports, Kowalkowski has already attracted national attention by winning a pair of Duels. He is also high on the QBHitList’s Class of 2021 quarterbacks to watch.


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Scot Gregor is an award-winning sportswriter for the Chicago Daily Herald. In addition to writing about Big 10 and Notre Dame football, Gregor has also covered the White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and college basketball. He grew up in Pittsburgh and watched the Steelers rise to prominence in the 1970s. Gregor has a B.S. degree in Journalism from Ohio University