Trey Bringuel was an eighth-grader when he first attended the Charlie Wedemeyer All-Star Game, and to this day he remembers thinking one thing.
“I thought it would be cool if I could play in the game one day,” he said.
The Sobrato High senior is going to do just that, as he was selected to play in the 47th annual edition of arguably the best and most well known prep football all star game in the Bay Area. This year’s game takes place at Los Gatos High on Feb. 5 at 6pm.
Once again, the contest involves players from 46 high schools in Santa Clara County that are split up into two teams, the North and South. Bringuel will be joined by Sobrato teammates Nathan Ortiz and Mark Collins, and the three will play for the South squad.
Live Oak also has three players in the game: Nathan Williams, Keelan Echauri and Aaron Parra. Williams earned Blossom Valley League Mount Hamilton Division MVP honors this past season as a powerful running back and linebacker, Parra was named the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year as a linebacker, and Echauri earned all league first team honors as a defensive back.
“I’m just super grateful to get chosen for this game because there are a lot of good players from good teams that are coming to play,” Williams said. “It’s just great to be a part of it.”
The Charlie Wedemeyer All-Star Game has special significance because of Wedemeyer’s inspiring life story that continues to resonate long after his passing. Wedemeyer was 64 years old when he died in June 2010 after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
He was survived by his wife, Lucy, their two children, Carri and Kale, and seven grandchildren. Lucy, a longtime Los Gatos resident and local real estate agent, continues to play a prominent role in the All-Star Game festivities and said since the 2021 game was canceled due to Covid, there’s a little extra anticipation and excitement surrounding this year’s game.
“The whole thing is to encourage this younger generation to understand what sacrifice, determination and commitment is,” Lucy said. “And Charlie was all of those things.”
And then some. When Charlie was diagnosed with ALS at age 30, he was given one to three years to live. Instead, he lived 30-plus years with the disease and in that time led Los Gatos to a 78-18-1 record and seven league championships.
Charlie and Lucy were high school sweethearts at Punahou School in Hawaii and got married while they were in college at Michigan State. They were the subjects of a made-for-TV movie in the 1980s and gained national attention. Despite losing the ability to walk or speak and being confined to a wheelchair early in his diagnosis, Charlie talked to his players through Lucy, using a language of blinks, eyebrow raises and cheek twitches, per Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.
They later traveled the world doing speaking engagements, with Lucy reading Charlie’s lips to share their heartwarming and inspirational story to countless people. Players in the game will learn Charlie’s story if they don’t know it already. And they also get to suit up one last time with their buddies and make new friends from other schools in the process.
For Williams, the game represents a chance to compete against the very best. In an ultra-productive senior season, Williams bowled over defenders when he carried the ball and laid out ball carriers when he was playing linebacker for a Live Oak team that finished just percentage points behind Leland for the league title.
“Our season was great and I feel like I played to the best of my ability,” he said. “I’d say the only way I was able to perform the way I did was because the coaches put their trust in me to be a top playmaker. My linemen were also great blocking for me so I could make some of those big runs. I like playing running back a lot more than linebacker, but it was fun to lay the boom on someone.”
Bringuel was a BVAL Santa Teresa Division first team honoree for his play as a running back—he also made an impact at receiver, linebacker, safety and returned kickoffs and punts—and has attended the Charlie Wedemeyer Game twice as a fan and now will see one of his top goals fulfilled by playing in it.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in this game,” he said. “I was thankful to get the call that I would be getting this opportunity.”
Bringuel and Williams both have been staying in shape since the season ended. Williams said Acorns coach Mike Gemo has kept him accountable to his conditioning goals to run at least a mile several times a week. Bringuel strength-trains three days a week, conditions and runs routes on occasion. “I wanted to stay in shape so I’d be ready whenever I got on the field,” Bringuel said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.