Tell us a little bit about yourself on and off the field…
I’m originally from the North Side of Chicago but now I live in a Southwest suburb and go to Marist High School. While in school when I’m outside of football, I’m on the Student Council, I started doing that my sophomore year and I also help with advertising the school which includes going to grammar schools or open houses, that’s what I do off the field.
On the field, this is my third year on varsity starting. I was all conference last year and I play inside and outside linebacker. I’m on the only football player in the family, my older sister is a freshman at the University of Illinois, she’s going into her sophomore year. My dad was a college soccer player, so my athletic ability comes from him, but I’m the only football player in the family. My sister and I talk all the time whether it be through FaceTime or regular calls, and with her being at school so close she can come back home. We get to stay in contact with her which is good.
Being a Chicago guy are you more a deep dish North Side or thin crust South Side guy for pizza?
I’m definitely a deep dish guy, the best pizza I think is definitely at Giordano’s and places like that. I’ve definitely had a lot more deep dish than thin crust.
How does your sister feel about you having the opportunity to go potentially play at the University of Illinois?
She’s really supportive of whatever I want to do, she’s not pushing me either way and wants me to find the best fit for me and while she knows that the University of Illinois is the best fit for her, she knows it could be different for me. She’s very supportive of me in whatever direction I decide to go in.
Who is really helping you with the recruiting process?
Pretty much it’s a collaboration with my mom and my head coach. They help me in figuring out what I’m seeing at each program. They are real supportive of my decision and my criteria for what school I would like to go, and they definitely give me their own input especially with my head coach since he’s had other guys who have gone through this process before and he has a unique perspective. I really lean on him as he has his own perspective on things and I also lean on my mom a lot as well because she thinks a lot about academics, she’s really involved in doing research on that and she asks a lot of good questions. Those two and myself really have a good collaboration in this recruiting process.
What are your mom’s thoughts on the distance factor with some of the school options you are seriously considering?
My mom is fine with wherever I want to go, she supports me if I want to stay really close to home or go a million miles away for school. Wherever I go I’m going to make sure we stay close because we’re a very tight-knit family. She definitely understands how great an opportunity I have and wants me to be at the best place for me. Distance will definitely not be a factor in my decision.
Where would you say are overall in your recruiting process at this point?
I’m getting pretty close to making my final decision actually, the only big visit remaining is getting out to Duke on the 20th and I am getting ready to start winding things down and getting into what’s going to go into my decision making. I’m pretty close to the end of the entire recruiting process. I’m really comfortable with the relationships that I have and getting all my questions answered. I’ve been talking to the coaches at Duke to get the information that I need and through that process with all the schools is how I’ve felt I’ve gotten to the point after this visit to get my decision squared away.
Aside from Duke and Illinois, what are the other serious options that you are considering for your decision?
Yale and Vanderbilt.
Was not visiting Duke until the end kinda by design?
It was just when the opportunity presented itself and we looked at our schedules with my schedule, my mom’s schedule, the coaches schedule, this is just when it was able to come together for me to visit. I’ll be visiting them on the 20th for an unofficial visit.
Where has the recruiting process kinda gone from beginning to now with you and Duke?
It got started right around early June, Coach Bridge got in contact with me and we got to meet when he came up to my school and through Chicago to see some other guys that they had offered. Then a few days later the offer came and we stayed in contact since then so we could make sure I got the information that I need since I hadn’t been able to get out there before. Now that we’re looking at me taking a visit, he’s been putting things together at Duke and the football program for me to see.
What did they indicate were their reasons for wanting to offer you?
It was from Coach Bridge and they said they really liked my personal character, as well as what Coach Bridge took away from being able to meet me in person and talking on the phone and all the personality traits in me that would fit really well in both their locker room and also at the academic setting at Duke, so those things were the most important things and he also said in looking at my film with how I played, Coach Bridge has seen it and then he presented it to the entire staff and a lot of them were really excited by my film. Those are the components that led to the offer.
How did you feel once the Duke offer was extended?
Oh I was very, very happy. That is a place I knew I would absolutely consider if I got the offer from them, I was very excited about it.
What led you to you know that you would seriously consider Duke if they were to offer you?
The unique combination of academics and athletics for sure, it’s a different environment from the other schools that I’ve been able to see, so I definitely wanted a chance to get a closer look at it, so definitely after the offer was given it opened up a lot more doors for me to research the school and the opportunity some more.
Have you heard anything from them yet as to what kind of position and role they project you to have if you decide to go there?
Definitely at the linebacker position, that’s what we discussed over the phone. But as far as playing time and career timeline, we haven’t gotten into too much detail about that, that’s something we’ll talk about on the 20th when we get out there.
So you don’t have a sense from them yet whether they view you as a middle, inside or outside linebacker in their program if you go there?
No, not yet.
Do you have a preference where you would you like to play in college position-wise?
Not really to be honest. I’m comfortable at inside or outside linebacker and I think my athleticism allows me to play both. Anything that would let me play in the linebacker corps and would allow me to make plays, I’m comfortable with any of the linebacker positions.
What are your thoughts so far on what you have seen with your Top 4 of how they run their defenses and how they utilize their linebackers?
A lot of them utilize athletic linebackers, so that’s definitely how I think I would fit in. I definitely look at that and whether they use their linebackers in coverage more or if they use them to stop the run, I look at the versatility of the different linebackers and it’s exciting to see how differently they are utilized and how I might be able to play if I went there. If you are talking who develops them well, you definitely have to look at Lovie Smith at Illinois since he’s had guys like Brian Urlacher and others at Tampa Bay that he coached, that’s definitely a place where I think the best linebacker development would come from.
How are you trying to figure out what’s the most important things to you in terms of your decision-making process?
I look at the environment, the academic support can make or break where I want to go. You have to really look at the major things which for me definitely includes the academic support, the relationship with the linebacker coach and head coach, then there’s smaller things like players at the position and their development of linebacker.
What for you led to you feel that way?
Definitely because like with relationship with coaches, that’s going to matter because you are with them every single day, so I would rather know I’m going to be with somebody that I have a really good relationship with and that I will stay in contact with post-college rather than just somebody who is just going to coach me and that’s it. Also academically, I want to go to a place that takes academics very seriously because football after all doesn’t last forever, so I want to go a place that will help me in my transition after playing.
Based on your research, do any of the schools in your Top 4 have a better academic situation or academic support structure from what you have seen?
Defintely Yale for sure with their academic reputation and how they organized with their colleges and whatnot.
Would you say you have a stronger relationship with any of the coaches from any of the Top 4?
It’s definitely with the University of Illinois, their coach has been recruiting me since I was in my sophomore year when he wasn’t even at the University of Illinois but at another school, so that continued relationship is definitely the strongest of all the 4 programs.
Where would you say you are with your relationship with the Duke coaches?
It definitely has been building and I get on the phone with their linebackers coach at least once or twice a week and it’s definitely heightened as time as gone by as we get closer to the visit. They are definitely high up there, so I think overall they do a good job at making sure I stay in contact and making sure I get the information that I need including overall what’s going on with the program and where they stand with me.
Would you say going into the Duke visit that there is still a lot more information you need to learn about them and that they have ground they need to make up in your recruitment?
Oh yeah well Duke has had the shortest amount of time in my recruiting process, especially with this being the first time I’ve really been able to get out there to visit them and especially since I’ve been able to visit other programs before them or more often, that’s definitely where they are going to be a little bit behind but I know they are going to do a great job at keeping me informed about everything that I need to know. I think no matter what I’m going to be very informed by the school and the athletic program when I go there.
How much will you be comparing what you see on the Duke visit to what you saw and heard on the other school visits to the other Top 4 schools?
I’m definitely going to be looking at Duke as Duke and I won’t be comparing them to other schools until after the visit and I get home and compare their core values that I’m looking for and then see how each school does things and how they stack up against each other. When I get home is when I will start looking at that stuff, but when I’m at Duke it’s going to be about getting the information that I need and look at all the different components of the university and the football program.
Is there a leader at this point in your recruitment?
No, I don’t believe so.
Have you decided on when the final stages of your recruiting decision will be completed?
No specific date, but I’m looking at maybe a week or two after I get back from the Duke visit and just when I feel ready to announce what school I want to go to I’ll do that.