Net Advantage

Some of the most marvelous stories in the recruiting ranks are those of dual-sport athletes. In the case of Illinois quarterback Alex Loukas, a preeminent recruit for the 2006 Cardinal recruiting class, the off-season is owned by tennis. The 6'4" athlete won a state championship on the hardcourt in early June, and just weeks later earned three big football scholarships. It's not your average two-sport story...

In today's world of blue chip football recruits, it is no longer novel to find a standout two-sport athlete.  Linemen dominate on the wrestling mat.  Skill players dazzle on the baseball diamond or rattle the rim on the basketball court.

But the sport that has most influenced the athleticism and competitiveness of Deerfield (Ill.) quarterback Alex Loukas is found on a different playing surface.

Since the fourth grade, the hardcourt ace played national tennis tournaments.  At his peak, when he was playing in the 14's age division, Loukas was ranked #9 in the nation in doubles and in the top 60 in singles.  He was in the top 10 among singles players in the Midwest.

But come his freshman year of high school, he found in himself a burgeoning quarterbacking talent.  The demands of each sport surged as he transitioned to high school competition, and the inevitable collision came quickly.

"My tennis coach told me my freshman year that you can't be a jack of all trades and be good in every sport you do," Loukas remembers.  "So I stopped tennis and ran with football.  The decision was not that hard.  I knew football was something I had a chance to do well.  I played a lot of tennis my freshman year, but as I progressed in football, I phased tennis out of my summers.  It's not hard to hold tennis back because football is my passion - as corny as that sounds."

"There is also a difference in the environment between the two sports," he adds.  "Football kids are different.  They work together and make a real team.  Tennis kids aren't as warm.  They can be stuck up and mean.  The only thing they talk about and think about is tennis.  Football is a family."

True to his first family, Loukas has each year of high school devoted more of his year to football, and less to tennis.  Not yet ready, however, to completely drop his racket, the Deerfield High School star played this spring with the Warriors on the hardcourt.  In sharp contrast to any other premier prep in the Illinois tennis ranks, Loukas did not pick up a racket until the first day of his team's official practices in April.  By all rights, Loukas should have lagged in his junior year, but he instead took home a pair of state championships (doubles, team).

When the IHSA tennis season concluded, Loukas was already into June.  Tennis not only trampled the May football evaluation period for him, but it also put him behind the competition when he jumped into the summer camp season.

"The serving motion looks the same to you, but it's completely different in my mind from my football throwing motion," he begins.  "After a season of tennis, my left shoulder will fall down with the momentum as I bring my right arm around.  In football, when you dip your left shoulder, you become inaccurate and throw a lot of balls in the ground."

When Loukas threw at the Stanford camp in late June, his accuracy indeed suffered somewhat.  He acknowledged as much when he spoke with The Bootleg for a follow-up report.  But the upside of Loukas' tennis training was apparent to those who looked closely.  His feet, moving in all different directions, are fantastic.  His mental focus and control are superb.  Furthermore, the competitiveness which was forged through a life of baseline battles shines through.

Stanford looked at Loukas and saw his strengths, as well as what he can do once he plays football full-time.  His throwing motion is excellent in-season, and already the senior slinger has rounded again into top form.  Moreover, Loukas has a frame and physical upside which will blossom once he commits to year-round football weight training and conditioning.  Already he glides around the gridiron with his tennis-bred fleet feet, but his strength and athleticism are only a fraction of their capacity.

"Some coaches recognize the tennis that I play is at that high of a level, and what impact that has on what they see," Loukas says.  "But some didn't recognize that and put me behind other quarterbacks because of my throwing motion right after tennis."

The biggest fish who took a bite of Loukas are Stanford, Northwestern and Purdue.  That trio comprise his trimmed and final list of favorite schools, but beyond that, a big question mark remains.

"I originally wanted to decide early, but I'm leaning toward taking three official visits now," he reports.  "I have some things that are my favorites about each school, and also some drawbacks."

"I could make my decision here soon, but if I second guess myself in the next couple weeks about what I should do, then I'll take my official visits," Loukas allows.

Here is what the Illinois slinger has upcoming or on his mind for each of this three finalists:

Northwestern - "I went already once for a summer practice.  There were no pads or anything, and the coaches weren't there.  That gave me a chance to talk to the players, and then afterward I went and talked with the coaches.  I'll go again soon for a full practice, and that next time I just want to see the coaches and how they coach.  Especially Coach [Mike] Dunbar, who coaches the quarterbacks and is the offensive coordinator.  I want to see how he coaches and works."

Purdue - "I'm going to their Academic Day on August 7.  I want to talk to the Purdue coaches more.  I haven't really talked with Joe Tiller before, and that's something important I need to do."

Stanford - "I've talked to the Stanford coaches a lot - more than any other school.  It's just a process with them right now for admissions.  I'm working on the application right now.  I've finished most of the basic parts, but I haven't sent the recommendation forms to my teachers yet.  The recommendations are really important, and I need to figure out who at my school would represent me the best to Stanford.  The application is the thing - that's a big deal for Stanford."

The upcoming unofficial visits to Purdue and Northwestern, as well as the ongoing admissions application process for The Farm, are critical events which in the coming weeks will shape whether Alex Loukas is ready to pull the trigger or not with his college commitment.  We will keep you updated on the latest with this exciting Illinois athlete, as he soon chooses what path he will follow this fall with his recruitment.

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