Quincy, Illinois is in downstate Illinois, so when the writers from Chicago make up their annual all-state football teams. players like Jake Cornell (6-6, 285-pounds) often get over looked in favor of ‘neighborhood' kids.
"We've had some all-state kids," Notre Dame head coach Bill Connell commented. "But he (Cornell) made first-team Chicago Tribune, first-team Chicago Sun-Times, first-team Champaign News-Gazette and of course the coaches association team. Normally the Chicago papers don't come down here, so when you have a lineman make it, then you know he's done some good things."
There are a lot of big kids that play high school football in Illinois, but there is generally one thing that separates them from the good linemen and makes them an elite player.
"The great thing about him is that he can move around," coach Connell said of Cornell. "A lot of times you get these big kids that can't do that, this kid is darn quick. We do a lot of pulling and trapping, we sprint our quarterback out and roll our quarterback out. This kid moves real well and does a good job blocking for us and he's made some big blocks for us.
"Last year you could see his maturity level changing week by week. As he grew he was having fun putting it on people so we could run for 400 yards. He was liking it. The play was set up for him to make the big block and he was loving it. I think as he continues to lift and as he continues to grow, he's only going to get better.
"He's a heck of a football player. I think ‘he's as good as anyone," coach Connell added.
Cornell not only is a standout on the football field, but he's also the type of kid Notre looks for off the field.
"I think the first thing that coaches want to find out about a kid, with all the problems we have in society, is what type of person the kid is," coach Connell explained. "He goes to a Catholic school, he has great grades, he's a great citizen, he's a ýes sir', ‘no sir' type of kid. He doesn't cause problems. He isn't down in my office on a daily basis because he's causing trouble. He does what he's supposed to on and off the field. He's a kid that if somebody invests their money in him that they're going to get something out of him."
With Cornell being one of the top junior players in Illinois, you can bet Charlie Weis and his staff have him on their radar. In fact, Cornell recently visited Notre Dame for their junior day.
"I think he was very impressed with their facilities and their coaches," coach Connell said of Cornell's visit to South Bend. "He got a chance to sit down with their coaches and talk to them first hand, and I think he was very impressed.
"Jack also wrestles heavyweight and he didn't wrestle that weekend so he could make that visit. Obviously that's what he wants to do in college, play football at a major university, so he's had to miss a few meets."
"He was invited up to the Iowa junior day," Connell said. "But that's the same time as wrestling regionals so he's going to have to miss that. I think sometime during spring practice they'll invite him back up."
Notre Dame isn't the only school with strong interest in Cornell. Most of the Big Ten schools are recruiting him, and he's already been to several football camps and he's impressed the coaches at each stop.
"This last year we went to the University of Missouri football camp and they liked him," Connell said. "He went to University of Florida and they liked him. He went to the University of Nebraska and they liked him as well."