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Finding peace: Oehmen fulfills late mom's dream for him to go to college, his own to play football

UNION MILLS – It was always Angela Oehmen’s wish that her son Jacob would go to college.

Months after Angela and Joey Oehmen were killed in a crash Oct. 4 on U.S. 30, Jacob will realize his mom’s dream, while living out one of his own as he plays sprint football for Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting.

“She was my best friend. I was way closer to her. I was always with her, every single day,” Jacob said of his mom. “She was there every single game.”

Angela wasn’t necessarily the most knowledgeable sports mom, but her presence at his football and baseball games was what really mattered. The tragedy left an irreplaceable void for Jacob, his dad Bryant and sister Abby, 10, who survived the accident.

“My whole life changed in like 30 minutes,” Jacob said. “It changed everything about me, every single day. We’re doing fine. It’s day by day. Every day’s different. I definitely had to grow up fast. I didn’t have a choice. You just keep moving forward. I know she’s always watching. I’m comforted in that way a little bit.”

Initially, Jacob said he and his dad, a truck driver who married Angela when they were in their late teens, were withdrawn, but slowly realized they had to be strong for Abby.

“We help each other,” Jacob said. “It was super hard for him to go back to work. At first, we were both shut off, we didn’t really talk that much. We need to be there for my sister. That was my biggest thing. We always try to keep her doing something. I just couldn’t give up.”

Jacob had originally intended to go to Cal College and play football this year, but backed off after making his verbal commitment. The time away helped change his mind.

“Last year, it was, do I want to put my body through this for four more years?,” Oehmen said. “When (high school) football season ended, I knew I wanted to play at the next level, so I went harder and harder. It took a toll on my body. I never had that break. I was working landscaping. I was like, I’m not doing this the rest of my life. I missed football. I want to play football. That was my whole life. That’s my favorite (sport), me and Andrew (Huizar). I’d had conversations with my mom. She wanted me to go to school. My dad, I just threw out the idea one day. I know I have the talent, I just need the opportunity.”

An All-La Porte County selection as a senior in 2021, Oehmen reached out to Crimson Wave coach Jay Novak back in November to see if the offer still stood.

“He texted and said he was still very interested in coming,” Novak said. “We set up a phone call, I gave him condolences on what happened and told him we’re here to support you on what you went through. It’s a family here. He had a change of heart. That happens sometimes in the recruiting process. One thing I’ve learned with this is what seems like a no-brainer sometimes is not that way. We knew Jacob was a mature, young man. We had a great conversation and he said he felt he needed to take this step and use the talents the good Lord gave him. We were obviously excited because he’s a tremendous athlete.”

Oehmen signed his national letter of intent Jan. 24, joined by several of his future Crimson Wave teammates.

“Coach Novak really never gave up on me,” Oehmen said. “I appreciate that and here I am. Ever since then, it’s been full go. I go to a trainer (at Core Power in Valpo) four days a week. I do speed training, jump training, a normal lift, indoor, outdoor stuff. Days off, I go to the field a lot, work on drills, releases, catches, high points. Honestly, I feel like I’m a way better athlete than I was in high school. When I graduated, I was like 160 (pounds). Now I’m at like 185, so I have to lose a few. I’ve put in so much work. The year off helped me. It’s all I could think about. I just want to be great.”

Oehmen, a receiver/defensive back, will begin attending classes in August and start working out with the team in the summer.

“I just can’t wait,” he said. “I’m mostly a receiver, but I told them if they need me on defense, I got ‘em. I didn’t see any games, but I watched all the film. Huizar said it’s the fastest football he’s ever seen. They have spring ball, so I can go see games. I know a guy from Hobart. Isaac Hegwood (from Portage), we go to the Sparta Dome. They’ve got squad over there. They had a really good team last year and they have a bunch of big commits this year, from Florida, Las Vegas, Georgia.”

Most importantly, football would provide an emotional outlet for Oehmen, who struggles most when he’s not busy.

“It’s an escape,” he said. “It keeps my mind off things. It’s hard when I’m not doing anything.”

Support of friends and the community have been immeasurable to Oehmen and his family.

“My girlfriend (Cindilyn Cordero) has helped me a lot through it,” Jacob said. “My dad would always ask me, you need to see a therapist. No. (Cordero)’s always been there for me. She keeps me going. Everybody’s texting me, letting me know they’re there.”

The Oehmens considered moving, but they still live in the same home in Wanatah.

“We didn’t want to leave Wanatah,” Jacob said. “We’ve changed the house, painted rooms. That’s helped a little bit. They were cremated, so they’re always with us. We have a nice, little stand. There will be (a memory trigger). I don’t want to look at it twice, but I feel like I have to. I know she’s watching over all of us.”

South Central graduate Jacob Oehmen recently signed his national letter of intent to play sprint football for Calumet College of St. Joseph.

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