Senior Will Jackson joked that it doesn’t take long to discover that baseball teammate and senior Jason Vrbancic is blessed with a high level of intelligence.

“You can tell the moment he starts talking,” Jackson said.

Vrbancic is one of five Loyola seniors who earned a National Merit Scholarship and one of three varsity athletes to receive the prestigious award. Along with Vrbancic, Louisa Edwards and Emily Molins were among the 7,500 nationwide recipients of the scholarship, which is given to students who exhibit exceptional academic ability. Edwards was a four-year member of the cross country and track and field teams and played three seasons of basketball. Molins rowed on the crew team for three seasons.

All three are attending some of the best colleges in the country, with Edwards to University of Virginia, Molins to Stanford and Vrbancic to University of Chicago. Molins and Vrbancic both will continue their athletic careers at the next level.

“The work ethic, dedication and persistence it takes to succeed as an athlete helps you in other areas,” Edwards said.

According to Loyola athletic director Pat Mahoney, the school strives to promote an athlete who is well-rounded. The three National Merit Scholars prove that athletic success doesn’t have to come at the expense of academic excellence.

“They are unbelievably special,” he said. “I’m not surprised, but I’m amazed. Their commitment to both academics and athletics is impressive.”

ChrisJon Simon, who coached Edwards, seconded Mahoney’s sentiment.

“Louisa demonstrates that a varsity athlete is able to balance competitive running with outstanding academic performance,” he said. “She provides the younger athlete a road map for academic success in a college prep curriculum.”

There’s more.

Edwards, Molins and Vrbancic all found time in high school to give back to their communities. Edwards volunteered at Sacred Heart Convent in Wilmette, Vrbancic did service work at Sunrise Senior Living in Chicago and Molins advocated for affordable housing in Wilmette.

While Vrbancic was a two-year varsity starter and a big reason why the Ramblers captured the second sectional title in program history, baseball doesn’t define him, according to Nick Bridich, the baseball head coach and assistant director of admissions.

“He’s off the charts, but that’s what is so special about our guys,” Bridich said. “They are well-rounded and have their priorities straight.”

Edwards said she did her best to mentor her younger teammates on Loyola’s vision, which espouses the virtues of developing the whole person.

“Some girls are worried about playing sports because it might hurt them in school,” she said. “I tell them they shouldn’t give up sports or service. School should be the most important thing, but my experiences in sports helped shape who I am.”