Junior Prospect - Chris Patterson

Every year Illinois produces its share of top-shelf talent. This upcoming season, one of the state's most highly touted players is Chris Patterson. Charles Babb spoke to Chris and his coach, Elton Harris.

When asked about Chris Patterson's strengths, Coach Harris fired out adjectives in a staccato fashion, "Smart. Speed. Quickness." Then he elaborated, "He has speed and quickness. He can misread something – he has only played one year at linebacker and that was last year. He will be better this year. Last year he was attacking and was not reading really good. He was attacking and blowing things up, and then they would catch him on a play action. Then we sat down with him and showed him how to key read plays like that."

However, when one is first finding out about Chris, the first thing that stands out about him as a football player is not his speed or strength but his versatility. In fact, the word begins to take on a whole new meaning when you consider his career at Hubbard High School. Coach Harris observed, "As a freshman we had him playing guard – offensive guard and defensive end at 14 years old and starting. We went like 13-1 that year. We moved him to defensive end his sophomore year. We had a good year that year too and went to the semi-finals."

Last year the coaching staff decided to move Chris to linebacker, and in his first season at that position, he finished with 22 sacks, 6 knockdowns, 7 interceptions, 3 interceptions returned for touchdowns, and 100+ tackles. Of course, in keeping with the versatility theme – he also gained over 700 yards with 14 touchdowns at running back. He ended up with 287 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns playing at Tight End. Finally, while performing the kicking duties, Chris hit 6 of 10 field goals and had a punting average of 43-44 yards…

Let's get this straight: in his freshman and sophomore seasons, Patterson played defensive end and offensive line. As a junior, Chris played linebacker, tight end/wide receiver, running back, place kicker, and punter? What will he do for an encore in 2003? Perhaps Hubbard High fans will be able to watch as Chris hawks popcorn at the concession stand between plays, leads cheers with the cheerleaders during time outs, and plays an instrument in the band at halftime…

What position will he play in college? Coach Harris is not entirely certain, but he knows that Chris has all the tools necessary to be a fine linebacker. "This (will be) his second year playing middle linebacker. He has been behind some good linebackers, but he could be the best one we have ever had. He can go sideline to sideline. He is working on his strength right now…"

For his part, Chris just enjoys defense in general. "I always liked playing defense. My thing is that I would rather hit someone than get hit. Playing middle linebacker you are half way to wherever the ball is whether it goes left or right."

The bonus to being half way to where the ball goes (right or left) for Chris is that he gets to hit people. To quote him exactly, he gets to hit "LOTS of people."

Off of the field, Chris is intent on working hard and staying humble. "He won an award - the Old Spice award for the top 50 in the nation in the USA Today," Coach Harris said. "He brought the trophy to the school and put it in the trophy case for us. He is going to share it. He always says that he could not do it without his teammates. It is never about him. He never talks just about himself. Sometimes you have these ME, ME, ME guys. I like guys that say WE – not the ME."

His teammates like him, and he is a "team leader. He has been on the team three years going on four and has been a varsity starter," Coach Harris said. "He knows how the program goes…Kids look up to him. He never gives me trouble in the school."

So where will Chris end up playing next fall? Right now, Chris does not have any idea – but he does have a childhood favorite: "My favorite always has been Ohio State. They have the best rivalry game with Ohio State and Michigan. I just like the Big Ten Conference."

How does Chris intend to make his decision on where he will end up playing?

Although he would like to play early because of his love for the sport, he (unlike many top prospects) is willing to consider redshirting; "In college it is a different ballgame, I feel like I would be undersized to play middle linebacker my freshman year anyway. I would not mind redshirting – spending time with other linebackers so that can help me out, and I can get better." Nor will it matter whether or not he is far from home or just around the corner; "I talked to my mom about that – staying close to home. She said it would be best for me to go out and see as much of the world as I can. It really depends on the school. It is not so much that I want to go away or I want to stay. It is pretty much the school of my choice."

According to Chris, what will matter is "the coaches and the defensive system. How they play with their linebackers. I want to see how comfortable I would be playing in someone else's system."

Wherever he ends up playing, it might just be the coaches who are comfortable. They might rest a little easier knowing Chris is competently manning their linebacker position.


Chris Patterson on his strengths: "I have good instincts. I attack the ball. I don't wait for it to come to me."

Chris on areas he is working to improve upon: "My all around game. I feel all the awards I got last year were not good enough because we did not get that state title. I want to come and work hard…"

Measurements: 6'3" – 220 lbs. 4.5-forty timed at the Northwestern camp.

A player he might like to model himself after and why: "I would say Maurice Clarett. He came in as a freshman and had an impact on the team. His game just speaks for itself coming from High School to college."

Any date set on committing? – "No."

Camps: "Oklahoma"

Other Sports Patterson plays: "Track and wresting. I live at the school."

A possible major: "Psychology."

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