Westphal is a rising junior at Bolingbrook high school, which in most years competes in a highly-competitive game against Sandburg, Fitzgerald's former school.
While the prideful Fitzgerald may have constructed a strong argument on Sandburg's behalf, Westphal had the upper hand all along. Bolingbrook, after all, throttled Sandburg 47-33 on their home field this season, a result Westphal eagerly pointed out in responding to Fitzgerald's good-humored trash talk.
"We beat them this year," Westphal said, referring to Bolingbrook's victory over Sandburg. "I think he was just holding a grudge."
Fitzgerald and Parrker may not see eye-to-eye in discussing their high school football playing careers, but the personal bond formed between them over the weekend is the stronger shared emotional sentiment. Westphal spoke glowingly about Fitzgerald's passion for the game and the way he fosters a sense of community and togetherness within the coaching staff.
The moment he entered Fitzgerald's office, Westphal received an offer. That much came as no surprise. Earlier this year, coach Adam Cushing visited Westphal at his high school for a team lifting session, after which he disclosed NU's intentions of extending an offer once he arrived on campus.
Only when he began to grasp the revered heights of the school's academic track record—he was shocked to learn that Northwestern (rather than Stanford, the school he long held as the academic gold standard among FBS schools) recorded the nation's highest APR score (995)—did Westphal learn something new about the nearby school requesting his services.
"I never knew it was rated so high in academics," he said. "I always thought Stanford was ranked higher. Guess I was wrong."
He toured the facilities and met with defensive backs coach Jerry Brown, who was pleasantly surprised with Westphal's 6-1, 190-pound frame. The last time Brown saw Westphal, during his sophomore season, he stood around 5-11, 180 pounds. Westphal has since increased the intensity of his weight room regimen, which he believes led to the mini growth spurt.
Of all the desirable qualities—great ball skills, savvy instinctual play, blazing speed (he recently clocked a 4.45, 40-yd dash) for his size, one of the best skills-to-body prospects in his class—Westphal offers a defense, Brown honed in on his physical coverage and the speed in which he gets out of his breaks, allowing him to change direction and pursue ballcarriers with alacrity.
Westphal was impressed with Brown's film breakdown and the technical specificity with which he outlined Westphal's potential role with the team. "I had a good time with coach Brown," he said. "He spoke clearly about everything. He really did a good job breaking down the film, telling me what he liked about he and how he would use me."
The problem for NU is that Westphal, come decision time, can practically pick his destination from an illustrious list of powerhouse programs. He already holds offers from Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State, just to name a few. As Westphal showcases his new physique in the fall, that list is likely to grow.
Northwestern was one of several visits for Westphal this summer. He made trips to Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Illinois and Notre Dame. While he's kept his travels within driving distance to this point, Westphal plans to take in Florida and West Virginia sometime this year. He hasn't compiled a list of favorite schools, nor does he have a decision date in mind.
"I'm kind of just taking everything as it goes right now," he said. "I still have a lot o time."
While it's difficult to forecast the direction of Westphal's recruitment—his list of suitors includes some of the fiercest and most effective recruiters in the nation, a list certain to grow in the coming year—he offered a morsel of encouragement for NU when asked to provide an appraisal of his weekend visit.
"It was a top-five visit," he said. "I definitely enjoyed it"