When we last checked in with Martin O'Donnell, he and his Downers Grove South teammates were in danger of losing part or all of their season to a teachers strike. The strike was fortunately ended quickly, and Downers South has yet to look back. They are 10-0 on the season, including a 23-6 win last weekend in the first round of the state playoffs. O'Donnell says that there have been a "few tough games along the way," though a look at the Mustangs' results through their 9-0 regular season reveal six shutouts, and a lopsided 272-16 total scoring tally. This coming Saturday they will face their cross-town rivals at Downers North, which carries intense focus despite the 20-0 result when they faced each other just four weeks ago in the regular season. South is currently rated #1 in Illinois and is looking to repeat as state champions.
O'Donnell says that he has narrowed down his universe of schools to a firm and final list of six, and has in fact respectfully asked all other schools to stop calling him at this point. The six are Stanford, Illinois, Nebraska, Penn State, Iowa and Oregon. He has visits set to the first three (Illinois: 12/6; Nebraska 12/13; Stanford 1/10) and is still trying to decide how to take the final three schools down to his two remaining visits. O'Donnell says that the list is mostly even at this point, but two schools that stand just a little ahead of the pack are Stanford and Illinois.
"Illinois - I am very comfortable with them with all that I have seen and know. With Stanford, I just really like the coaching staff. All six are great schools, though, so I can't go wrong," diplomatically adds the elite offensive tackle.
To refresh your memory, O'Donnell plays for the Mustangs at left tackle, while the right tackle position has been manned by Kevin Gage, a talented prep in his own right who is committed to Illinois. But Gage was just lost for the season with an ACL injury last week, which puts more pressure on the versatile O'Donnell. Martin has played inside at guard this year and outside at tight end, and enjoys the challenges of a flexible role as needed by the coaches.
He says that he is happy with his improvement in his pass blocking this season, though many plays the defense tries to remove him from the equation with cut blocks to bring him to the ground. You might expect a lot of frustration from the All-American lineman, but he takes it in stride. "That's just what they have to do, and for my part I just have to try to get back up and make plays wherever I can," he states matter-of-factly.
O'Donnell is still working on the Stanford application, though it is not easy to find enough time to knock it out while he is in the thick of the state playoff run and balancing the homework that goes with four AP classes this semester. He says that the coaching staff "has been really good about not pressuring" him, though, and he is working on it when he can. This is a recruitment that will push deep into January, if not the final days in early February, so there is no undue rush to push O'Donnell to get his application in immediately. With a reported GPA north of 4.0 and a 28 ACT, he says he is not really much concerned with his admissions chances and has no plans for any standardized tests this fall.
Though the strain of football, school and the application is quite a bit, O'Donnell laughs that he tries to avoid complaining to his friends, who all are crunching through four or five college applications right now. "I feel bad if I try the 'poor me' routine," he admits. Some of those friends are also applying to Stanford, including one who is a top gymnast who has already applied and been accepted. O'Donnell says the two of them chat about Stanford from time to time.
Aside from the timing and news of O'Donnell's Stanford admissions application, this recruitment will see little change until his first visits in December. Like the Stanford coaching staff, Cardinalmaniacs™ will just have to be patient for word on this elite offensive lineman...