This is a critical month for Stanford Football recruiting. A great number of prospective student-athletes have taken the October 9 SAT for either their first standardized board score or for a retake to bump up their previously disappointing score. In the next week or two, those scores will enter the public domain in various recruiting reports here and elsewhere, and the results will go a long way toward shaping the path for this Cardinal recruiting class.
But one top recruit got ahead of the game and took the ACT in late September. Mike Kafka scored an insufficient 21 on the ACT his junior year - if you think better in terms of the SAT, that converts to a 990. With fantastic athleticism, a strong arm and loads of untapped potential, the Chicago (Ill.) St. Rita signal caller is a prime target for Buddy Teevens in this 2005 class. Kafka has had a relatively low profile recruitment given how little time he has played quarterback in high school. The 6'3" athlete was a standout wide receiver his junior year, and even now as a senior, he plays second fiddle in his school's run-oriented offense. But when the Cardinal coaching staff brought Kafka into their camp this past June for an up-close evaluation, it was a no-brainer to hand him a scholarship offer. Observers might question continuing to recruit this slinger when they just Monday secured a commitment from Lakewood, Wash. quarterback Tavita Pritchard. However, there is a convincing argument that can be made for taking both in this class after Stanford signed just one total quarterback the previous two classes. Especially when Kafka has the athletic ability to play receiver or safety in college.
That all being said, Kafka was a prospect in the somewhat speculative section of the recruiting Venn diagram given his disappointing test score. He has publicly stated that he is wide open in his recruitment, but actions speak louder than words. Kafka poured three months into preparation for his ACT retake after he returned from The Farm in late June. He took countless practice tests. He met with teachers both before and after school. For the first three weeks of football practices this fall, he had to miss 30 minutes each day while he prepped.
The payoff? Kafka just received his September retake score and was rewarded richly with a 26. To put that in SAT numbers that might mean more to you, that is equivalent to an 1180 or a nearly 200-point boost. That tremendous leap forward has significantly altered his admissions outlook for Stanford, and it accelerates his recruitment. Kafka shared his ACT news with the Cardinal coaches as soon as he learned of it, and he says that both Teevens and wide receivers coach Ken Margerum were ecstatic. The recruit mailed off his completed admissions application last week and expects to hear word in the next couple weeks.
The Stanford staff is not alone in their recruiting efforts to land Kafka, however. Two weeks ago he traveled to his first Cardinal game when he and his father made the trip to South Bend to watch Stanford face Notre Dame. The Kafka men were accompanied by fellow Chicagoan Tom McAndrew, who hails from Glenbard West High School and committed to Stanford in August.
"He's real excited," says Kafka of McAndrew's outlook on Stanford. "He definitely was pushing a little bit. He's a good kid, and I had a lot of fun talking with him."
"He's on a different side of the ball, though," the quarterback adds with a chiding chuckle.
Kafka did have the misfortune of watching a painful Cardinal loss, however. After controlling the first half of the game, Stanford had a meager 6-3 lead to show and led the contest slip away in the fourth quarter.
"Stanford had them on the ropes," the quarterback recruit comments. "They should have won. But it was a good game. It was my dad's first college football game, and the game, the stadium and the environment were all great for us to go to."
The St. Rita senior has had plenty of his own gridiron clashes to consume his time this fall, with the Mustangs deep into their season. At 6-2, they have enjoyed a good deal of success and lost their two games by just one score in imminently winnable contests. The offense has rolled up big numbers in both yardage and points, scoring over 40 points in five of their eight games thus far. But the focus has been on the ground game and Wade Weyer, who recently broke the all-time St. Rita rushing record. The throwing opportunities have been limited for Kafka, as is a reality in so many high school programs, but his weaponry has not been wasted.
"I'm pretty comfortable with my role," the senior signal caller offers. "I don't get to throw a lot, but we have a good number of designed running plays for me. We use me on the shotgun draw and option. I even play a little wide receiver, with our running back taking the snap as a quarterback to throw to me."
In his dual capacity, the Chicagoland standout has put up more than 900 yards passing (on 63% completions) while also running for 750 yards. Many prep talents of Kafka's caliber would loudly complain about the inability to showcase their arm - even more so considering that college scholarships hang in the balance. But this affable athlete is just excited for the chance to play under center in his senior season.
"It's great. You just have that sense of presence, making calls at the line," Kafka explains. "We're about to play the last game of the regular season; next is the playoffs. I just wish I had another year left."
The slinger's regular season swan song pits his Mustangs against Catholic League rivals Brother Rice (8-0). The Crusaders' defense has allowed 44 points all year and will provide Kafka's greatest test. Then the playoffs hit, signaling the last stages of the St. Rita standout's senior season. So too should his recruitment move into its dénouement. We will keep you updated with all Kafka's news in the exciting and revealing next few weeks.
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