By Billy Clark, FSU Sports Information Intern
Peyton and Eli. Serena and Venus. The Curry brothers. We often hear about sibling rivalries in sports, but what about best friends?
For No. 2 Florida State’s Hank Lebioda and Collin Engelhardt, the brotherly bond goes far beyond the fairway.
It started back at Orlando-areaTrinityPreparatory School, where Hank and Collin became friends, playing baseball as well as golf. Originally from Buffalo, New York, the Engelhardt family moved down to the sunshine state when Collin was five. He says he truly got into the sport of golf after moving to Florida.
“Seventh grade was Collin’s first year (at Trinity Prep), but Collin and I knew each other before that from junior golf tournaments,” recalls Lebioda, who says he began playing golf competitively at the age of ten, but started playing tee ball around the age of four.
Being questioned about how the two met stirred Lebioda’s memory, bringing up a nice anecdote from their baseball playing days. Keep in mind here that Lebioda mostly played catcher, and Engelhardt third base.
“In eighth grade, we were both on the JV baseball team. I was going to go in and pitch in the fourth or fifth inning or something like that. Collin was told to go catch me, to warm me up. I was throwing, throwing,” says Lebioda. “I threw a slider in the dirt, hit a rock, bounced up and hit him in the eye. It swelled his eye shut for the next two or three days. Harmless, but pretty funny that just kind of happened out of the blue.”
Suffice it to say that the pair probably settled on the right sport.
The two starred at Trinity Prep for years, both on the diamond and on the golf course. Lebioda earned honor roll every year of prep school, to go with Engelhardt’s honor roll in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
The two had been the epitome of the student-athlete, and soon the college recruiting process would begin.
High school golf tournament (Collin in middle; Hank second from right)
In his sophomore season, Hank was offered by Florida State Head Coach Trey Jones after being recruited for several years. He had a difficult choice ahead of him.
“Honestly, it was a really tough decision. I had always loved golf more than baseball. Baseball was the first sport I played. I had planned on continuing to play baseball as long as I could. My sophomore year of high school, in December, I committed to play here at FloridaState. I had a long talk with my father and my coach about it. It was a really tough decision I had to make, but it was something I thought benefited me in the long run.”
Despite playing together in multiple sports for over six years, it would seem that he and Collin would be attending different schools for the first time in a long time.
Engelhardt was no slouch himself. In 2010 he was named the 1A Golfer of the Year by the Florida Athletic Coaches Association and Central Florida Golfer of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel. His offer from FloridaState would come the next season, following a strong showing in his junior year.
On winning those awards at such a young age, Engelhardt says it only helped his career. “It was helpful when you play against guys like Hank and all the other good players in Florida. I mean I always knew I could do it and I still think I can play.”
“We watched Collin play in a US Junior one summer, Collin won the state high school championship,” remembers coach Jones. “They were both recruited separately, but we knew they were (from) the same high school and knew each other well.”
Hank and Colling make it official as they sign their NLIs at Trinity Prep
And so the two friends came to Tallahassee in 2012, and have been roommates since their freshman year.
Having each other around helped the former prep stars transition to the collegiate game, where they now stand as two of three juniors, along with Rowin Caron, leading what is a very young group of golfers for Florida State.
“It was awesome my freshman year. We had four guys come in, but I had no idea who the other guys were. It helped me settle in with the unfamiliarity, kind of ease into it instead of getting thrown in all at once,” says Lebioda. “Having a friend here, some guy I knew since seventh grade… Having him here by side was awesome.”
Engelhardt is just as grateful to have his old friend around, and says it really helps his game.
“I need to put the ball in play more off the tee, and Hank is pretty consistent at it, so just having him and watching him gives me good visuals.”
Lebioda has had tremendous success so far in his career, including being named team captain the last two seasons. However, with everyone on the roster roughly the same age, he prefers to let his actions do the talking.
“We are one team. I try my best to lead by example and do what needs to be done… Treat everyone as fairly as possible and as equals. By doing that, we can build team unity and a lot of respect between one another, and that’s what makes things happen. ”
In 2013, Lebioda won the Golden Nole Award, presented to the student-athlete who exemplifies athletic achievement, community service, attitude and dedication. He participates in the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, an organization similar to student body government that helps student-athletes get involved around campus.
For Lebioda and Engelhardt, there is more to it than just producing on the course. They strive to excel in all parts of university life.
“We care just as much about the university and the well-being of the regular student body as we do about trying to win national championships and ACC championships,” says Lebioda.
Hank and Collin on their official visit to Florida State
Last week, the No. 2 ranked Seminoles finished second at the Olympia Fields Country Club/Fighting Illini Invitational. As he tends to do, Lebioda lead the way, nailing an improbable hole-in-one to jump fourteen spots in the individual rankings, finishing tied for the 30th spot.
“Hank’s shot was the best shot I have even seen,” said Jones after the event.
Though the upcoming spring season is a little ways off, Lebioda already has lofty goals for himself.
“Personally, I’d love to be an All-American, both academically and athletically. I take a lot of pride in how I handle myself not only on the course but in the classroom and take responsibility for my entire experience here at FloridaState.”
When asked about the goals for the team, he was just as ambitious.
“Same goes for every year. We want to win a national championship, we want to win ACCs. This year I feel like we have a great opportunity. Being around the top of the leaderboard the last two years really made me want it. I couldn’t tell you how many ACC championships we won last year as a university… I’d love to be a part of that group.”
It is that determination and willingness to lead a group of young men the same age as him that make Lebioda special. And he does it all with his old friend right beside him.
Whether from the golf course or the classroom, Lebioda and Engelhardt use their long-standing bond to get the most out of teammates and themselves, making this friendship pivotal to the program’s success.