College Football Recruiting: Chicagoland Stars Not Staying Home

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January 4, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Team Nitro wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (4) runs with the ball during the first half at the Under Armour All-America high school Game at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s 7 a.m. on the first Wednesday morning of February and the piercing shrill of a technological dinosaur breaks the dozy silence of athletic departments across the country. An ode to the days of Gordon Gecko, the fax machine finds renewed relevance every year in college football recruiting on National Signing Day.

It’s odd that as recruiting continues to evolve with the way we absorb information a technology on life support plays such a critical role, but in Chicagoland and in high schools throughout the nation, highly coveted football prospects like Crete-Monee’s Laquon Treadwell and Joliet Catholic’s Ty Isaac officially fax their National Letter of Intent to eagerly awaiting coaches and compliance officers. In Morris, an agricultural town southwest of Chicago that lies on the utmost outskirts of what can be considered the suburbs, Danny Friend faxed his NLI to Indiana with decidedly less fanfare.

No unveiling. No drama. Just a simple, understated day.

“This is the way we did it last year and it’s something we’ve done previously at Morris, so I thought it was a good idea. But you only get to do this once, so if somebody else wants to do the flashy thing, they might as well,” Friend said.

All told, several dozen players from around Chicago signed their National Letter of Intent on Wednesday and faxed them into the schools where they chose to play their collegiate football. Some ceremoniously pulled hats out of bags and professed their undying allegiance to the university with a “Go Blue” or a “Hotty Toddy”, while others, like Danny Friend, went the minimalist route.

Friend, a longtime Hoosier commit, signed his papers in front of a small gathering on a white Wednesday morning. Later on, Morris Community High School had a small public ceremony with Friend and two of his college-bound teammates (Jeff Perry of Central Michigan and Anthonee Monson of Division-II Bemidji State.) The entire proceeding had a very eclectic vibe in an industry that continues to quickly manifest into something decidedly more complicated.

Roughly a 45-minute trip down I-80E in Frankfort, Lincoln Way West senior Colin McGovern signed in a similar fashion, but he has also seen the crazier side of the recruiting process, as well. McGovern is a Notre Dame signee and was an Under Armour All-American selection that piled up 14 offers before choosing the Irish over the majority of the Big Ten and the defending national champion, Alabama Crimson Tide.

McGovern shut the process down in March shortly after receiving his Notre Dame offer, so his recruitment was relatively drama free. But when he made the trek to St. Petersburg, FL, for the Under Armour game, he saw firsthand the type of circus that recruiting has become.

“It was ridiculous. Everyone is getting interviewed down there by ESPN, and they’re being shown on TV. They’re making the (Sportscenter) Top 10 and everything. It was a cool experience. Now, being injured nobody really wanted to talk to me, so it was a little different,” McGovern joked. “Some of those guys really liked to live it up, though.”

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  • Ryan Wooden

    I think this is endemic of the entire recruiting game changing, but it’s obvious that recruiting in Chicago presents a lot of unique challenges.

  • Kyle Kensing

    Such a telling story of why the Big Ten struggles so much out of conference. Chicago *is* B1G Country, schools have to keep the Treadwells and Isaacs home.

    • Ryan Wooden

      Three of Illinois’ Top 15 players chose to stay inside the state. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s worse than any state in the country that had at least 15 D-I signees in 2013. It says a lot about the volatility of recruiting the area.

  • http://fansided.com/ Michael Castillo

    I find the Kyle Prater recruitment telling too. He was a top recruit, a Treadwell-type guy, who came to USC. Had injuries and couldn’t start and then returned to Northwestern. At some point Fitz has gotta start attracting more talent, though their academic requirements hurt, much like Stanford.

    • Kyle Kensing

      Northwestern is an interesting case study. I wrote about how Fitz coaches up at a demonstrable level: http://saturdayblitz.com/2013/02/03/northwestern-boise-state-recruiting-rankings/ and the academics does present a challenge. However, Stanford’s managed to overcome that and attract top-rated classes lately.

      The schools I wonder about are Iowa, Illinois, and even Wisconsin for all the talent it’s had.

    • Ryan Wooden

      Ya, Northwestern will probably continue along their current path, dipping heavily into Ohio, Florida, Cali and Texas. Recruiting nationally just fits their admissions standards better.

      Regardless, with Northwestern and ND electing to be picky and Illinois still down, recruiting in Chicagoland is basically like running four-wide right now. It’s really wide open for folks like USC, Bama, Michigan, Ole Miss, etc.