Hinsdale Central coach Mark DiMatteo brags about upcoming senior Jack Allen.
"Jack's our starting center. He'll probably play some nose for us too. Jack is a two-time place winner in the state wrestling tournament. He got second place two years in a row, last year at 215 and this year at heavyweight. Jack's one of the finest wrestlers in the country actually.
"On top of that, he's a tremendous offensive center. He'll be a three year starter for us. In our second place finish in the state championships in 2008, he was our starting center as a sophomore.
"He's absolutely dominant. He's got phenomenal foot speed. For a center, he's run a 4.9 forty. He's just a tremendous athlete. I'm looking for big things from him this year."
Allen looks almost slender compared with Illinois players he watched in a recent spring practice. But DiMatteo says he is packed tight and can definitely add weight.
"Right now he's 260, and there isn't an ounce of fat on him. He can easily be 280 and not lose an ounce of speed. He doesn't look like he's 260 at all, but that's what happens when you get a wrestler mixed in with all of that. He's a special player, there's no question about it."
Allen paid special attention to the offensive line drills on his visit.
"I thought it was very cool. It was really, really intense. The coaches were getting on everyone."
He says he prefers that type of coaching.
"Yeah, I think I could fit in there. I think it's one of the most intense practices I've seen. That's one big reason I like it because some of our practices are kind of dulled down. I like it when someone's screaming at you in your ear. You've just got to have thick skin. They're trying to help you no matter what they're saying to you."
Allen has visited C-U before.
"That was my first time visiting for football. But for wrestling, that's where the state tournament is. So I'm down there once a year for wrestling."
He is being recruited for both sports, and he is reluctant to state a preference.
"I love them both. It's hard to decide. I've talked to a couple of the (Illinois) coaches for wrestling. And I've talked to Purdue, Maryland, Wisconsin and Northwestern."
Allen is an intense competitor who doesn't like second place in anything. He is working to win a state championship as a senior.
"Second place is not a good place to be. I messed up in the finals both times. I'm hoping to make up for it next year. We'll see."
He has continued his tremendous success since the state wrestling tournament. He was named to a state squad that competed for a national title.
"We just had a National Scholastic Dual Meet. I went 7-0, and our team won it all. I think there were 16-18 teams, but most of the powerhouse states were there. We beat Pennsylvania in the finals. Indiana was third."
Allen is self-conscious about his lack of size. At 6'-2", he is short by college standards.
"I think I'm overlooked because I'm shorter and smaller than everyone. I think I can do better than most 6'-7" kids. I don't wish to be mean, but some of the 6'-7" kids that get scholarships don't have much athleticism. They're just getting signed because they're big."
Coach DiMatteo says Allen has what it takes to play major college football. He believes that also, but he wants his play on the field to determine his future.
"I think I do, but I'll find out in the next couple months."
Besides the upcoming season, Allen plans to attend several summer camps to prove himself.
"I'm going to Illinois, Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue and Indiana."
What assets does he have to impress college coaches?
"Not stopping. I want to knock somebody on their back every play."
Besides offense and either nose guard or defensive end on defense, Allen is pushing for one additional role for his senior season.
"I'm trying to convince him to let me get in the backfield when we get in the redzone. I've got okay speed for a fat kid."
He believes Hinsdale Central will be better than people believe in 2010.
"I've heard numerous people say we'll be no good this year, we'll be 2-7. I think we're gonna surprise a lot of people."