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Red River's Peyton Lotysz is tackling his father's position

Red River's Peyton Lotysz blocks a teammate holding a padded shield as part of a practice drill Wednesday afternoon at the school practice field. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
Red River Roughriders left tackle Peyton Lotysz (right) takes a knee with his teammates during practice on Wednesday afternoon. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Left tackle Peyton Lotysz (center) breaks through during football practice at Red River High School late Wednesday afternoon. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

Every day, seeing his father walking with a cane is a cruel reminder to Peyton Lotysz of how physical the game of football is.

That hasn't deterred the Grand Forks Red River High School junior from pursuing the sport with a passion.

"Sometimes I see dad struggling and it bothers me,'' Lotysz said. "But when I play I don't think about being injured. You can't play in fear.''

The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Peyton Lotysz is following in his father's footsteps.

He will be playing left tackle when Red River opens its season with a 6:30 game at Bismarck Legacy tonight—the opening night of play for most North Dakota high school football teams. Greg Lotysz was an All-America offensive tackle at UND.

The elder Lotysz took his game to the next level.

He was selected third overall in the Canadian Football League out of college. But Greg Lotysz chose the NFL, signing as a free agent with the New York Jets.

Lotysz made the Jets' practice squad as a rookie. In his second season, he suffered a major injury to his left knee in a preseason practice. Complications from knee surgery resulted in two postsurgical infections, crippling him and ending his football career.

Greg Lotysz has no reservations about his son playing football.

"If you live in fear, then you won't be able to do most things,'' he said. "We've always taught our kids to be adventurous, to try different things.''

Peyton Lotysz has aspirations to follow his father into the pro ranks.

"I loving playing left tackle,'' the junior and second-year starter said. "It's so much fun, hitting people on every play. My dream is to play in the NFL.''

That dream goes through college first. Lotysz already has received some interest from Division I college coaches via social media.

"I was pretty excited, and nervous, when I first got those,'' Peyton Lotysz said. "You always dream about going places to play football. To see that the opportunity might be there, it's pretty cool.''

Red River coach Vyrn Muir said college coaches have told him the lineman is one of the best junior players in the state.

As Muir talked, Lotysz was alone on the other end of Red River's practice field. Practice had ended 20 minutes earlier and all his teammates were gone. But there was Lotysz, working on a blocking sled.

"After every practice Peyton's out here on his own, running, stretching, working on technique,'' Muir said. "Kids don't usually do that. It's the special kids who do that.

"He's good technically. He moves his feet well for a big guy. He's just an athlete. And he's got some nasty in him. Peyton plays tough, physical football. he really gets into guys.''

In addition to being a returning starter, Lotysz was selected by his teammates as one of Red River's captains—only the third junior to hold that designation since Muir joined the coaching staff in 2001. "He's viewed as a leader,'' Muir said. "He's one of our hardest workers.''

As for Lotysz, when he needs extra pointers on playing his position, he doesn't have to go far. Father and son will put in time together in their backyard.

"Dad helps me a lot with technique,'' Peyton Lotysz said. "I have to ask him for help. He won't do it unless I ask.''