Nazareth Academy honors alumnus now in the NFL

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Nazareth Academy honors alumnus now in the NFL

Nazareth Academy honored Julian Love (class of 2016) and the legacy he has created by retiring the No. 20 Roadrunner Football jersey and inducting Julian into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame on June 15, 2023 in LaGrange Park. Love is a safety for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. His family, former coaches and teammates joined him for the evening that highlighted his accomplishments at Nazareth Academy, the University of Notre Dame and in the National Football League. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deborah Vondrasek Tracy, president of Nazareth Academy, speaks about Love during the event. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Love, seated next to his wife Julia who he met as a student at Nazareth, smiles as speakers share stories. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Love wipes away a tear after viewing a slideshow of his football days at Nazareth. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Love speaks to those attending the event. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Former High School teammate Carson Bartels listens to the presentation. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Tim Racki, head football coach at Nazareth since 2006, congratulates Julian when he comes up to speak. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Love runs the ball during a post-season game in the snow in this undated file photo. (Photo provided)
Love and his teammates pose for a photo after winning the 2014 6A Illinois State Championship. (Photo provided)

Here’s what the sports pages will tell you about Julian Love, the 25-year-old defensive back who signed a two-year $12 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks in the offseason: A 2018 consensus All-American at Notre Dame, the New York Giants took him as a fourth-round draft pick in 2019. By the 2022-2023 season, he started all 16 games and had 79 tackles.

Here’s what Nazareth Academy wants you to know about Love, a 2016 graduate who led its football team to back-to-back state titles in 2014 and 2015: However good Love is as a football player, he’s an even better person.

The La Grange Park high school formally inducted Love into its athletics Hall of Fame and retired his No. 20 jersey June 15 at an event that included accolades from the school’s principal and president and football coaches and a tribute video that brought tears to Love’s eyes.

“Everyone’s heard that saying that it takes a village,” Love said at the ceremony, which took place in Nazareth Academy’s media center. “Most of my village is here in this room.”

That included his wife, Julia, Nazareth class of 2015; his sister Devinne, Nazareth class of 2014, and brother Michael, Nazareth class of 2019; and his parents, in-laws and former high school teammates — who still have a group chat in which Love is an active participant.

Head football coach Tim Racki commended Love for maintaining his commitment to excel where he was.

“Julian was always mindful to keep himself in the present moment,” Racki said. “He would always keep his head, his heart and his soul where his feet were.”

That’s not always the case for high school athletes who commit to a high-profile college sports program before their high school careers are over, Racki said. Love, who committed to the University of Notre Dame as a junior, worked just as hard the next year to win a second state championship.

“He was dead set and determined to bring his teammates back to that state championship game,” Racki said.

That didn’t stop Racki from drawing up a defensive play he called the “Golden Domer,” which included putting Love in the middle of the defense and letting him do what he wanted.

“He studied the other teams, too, and he was on the field,” Racki said. “He would know where the ball was going before we did.”

During the ceremony, Racki also recalled Love’s reaction to not being promoted from the freshman to the JV football team his freshman year: Love made a point of working out every day in the offseason.

“He was always respectful, but he had that look in his eye, like, ‘Coach, you made a big mistake, and I’m going to show you,’” Racki said.

Years later, Love said the decision to keep him on the freshman team pushed him to focus on more than football as a high school student. He participated in theater, served in campus ministry as an extraordinary minister of Communion and played baseball and ran track.

“This school forced me to do things beyond just football,” Love said.

That’s the kind of well-rounded education that Nazareth prides itself on offering, according to Principal Therese Hawkins, who formally announced Love’s induction into to the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.

The honor recognizes Love’s athletic career, but even more, it recognizes the example he sets.

“It’s all about his character,” said Hawkins, adding that she is happy for her three grandsons to look up to him. “He’s hardworking, humble, warm, open, inclusive, loving and determined to succeed.”

Nazareth President Deborah Tracy, who formally made Love’s jersey the first football jersey retired at the school, said the school community has watched Love grow over the years.

“Julian Love, you have made us proud over and over again,” she said. “And we’re bursting with pride tonight.”

Love is still connected with the school, where he is funding the Love Family scholarship, and where he will hold a football camp later this summer, according to his father, Detraiter Love.

Playing football at Nazareth holds a special place in Julian Love’s heart, he said.

“I have worn a lot of jerseys in my life,” he said. “But none compare to the No. 20 Nazareth jersey. I had none of the pressures of college or the NFL when I wore it. I was just playing a game with my friends.”


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