New Jersey Linebacker Considering Illini

Mike Gillhamer was hired as an assistant coach at Illinois in late February. After coaching pro ball for several years, he is reestablishing his recruiting contacts. Several New Jersey prospects are on his list, including linebacker Mike Strizak.

Mike Strizak is one of several Division I prospects at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, New Jersey He is proud of his school's tradition of success.

"Every year, we're pretty much a powerhouse This year was really good. It was my first year starting, so it was a great experience. The team went undefeated, and we won our state championship. And I believe we ended up third in the country."

With multiple star players among the returnees, more is expected in 2011.

"Pretty much the whole team is coming back except for 6 or 7 starters."

Don Bosco Prep takes on all comers. Top programs in other states seek games with them.

"We enjoy out-of-state competition that tries to play us. This year, our schedule's gonna be pretty hard. We have three out-of-state games."

Anyone capable of starting for such a team has a chance for an outstanding future, and Strizak is no exception. He had a good junior year, but he has no statistics to back it up.

"Our coach doesn't tell us that to be honest, to keep us humble I guess. I had a good season."

Strizak may be utilized at a different position in college than high school.

"I'm getting recruited as a linebacker, but I play defensive end right now. They say I'm a hybrid type, a stand-up defensive end."

From his description, he sounds like a blue collar player.

"I think I'm more of a hustle guy. I'm a hard worker. I'm not really a rah-rah type, I hustle, and I'm able to learn my job as well as possible. My knowledge of the game is what I excel at."

Strizak has multiple offers, so college coaches find a lot to like.

"North Carolina, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Illinois, Maryland and Rutgers. There's more, but I don't remember them. It's hard to keep track of them all."

Rutgers may have the lead for his services His state's school is nearby and interested. He has visited there four times already. He also attended a Maryland junior day. Is he planning to visit Illinois?

"Absolutely. I've just got to find the right time to come out there and get the full experience of the campus."

Since college coaches are not yet able to call junior prospects, they must rely on more indirect means of contact. Illini coach Mike Gillhamer wasn't able to make any contact with Strizak until after he was hired, putting him behind other schools. Of course, athletes can call him, and the 6'-3", 225 pounder has done that.

"I've called Coach Gillhamer on a few occasions to see what the culture is down at Illinois. When I talk to him, he seems like a very good guy.

"From what he said, Illinois is on the right track. He says they're hitting every day in practice, and I like that because that's what Don Bosco is all about. It's all about physicality. Doing the work, and the results will come out of it."

What is he looking for in a college?

"I'm definitely looking for a great coach/player relationship. I'm also looking for a good academic system and a good football program. I guess a really close team."

Academics is important to Strizak.

"I'm leaning toward Pre-Med. Maybe major in Biology and then go to Chiropractic school, something like that."

He has been invited to several summer camps, but he is uncertain at this time which ones he might attend. If the Illini can get him on campus, they have a chance. But competition will be fierce for his services.

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