The looks of joy and relief were palpable in the Madison Memorial High School gymnasium Wednesday morning.
"I am doubly blessed in that sense because it could have been either way—one getting one, the other not getting that—for both of them to have scholarships is a real blessing and I thank God for that," Patty Ikegwuonu, Jack and Bill's mother, said.
"Putting ourselves through college is something that we've always set as one of our goals," Jack said.
The brothers beamed with happiness after the signing as classmates and well-wishers looked on and exchanged congratulations, while a few members of the media milled about.
Their parents, Patty and Fidelis, had the joyful look of incredibly proud parents while simultaneously looking like they had just finished a very long sprint.
"It's really been so stressful—deciding what to, what not to do, where to go and then the traveling, visiting schools and deciding what you like and what you don't like about a particular school," Patty said. "I'm glad it's over."
"It's a journey," Jack said. "I loved it and I hated it and I loved it at the same time. It is a real experience. I think a lot of kids should feel lucky that they get to go through the recruiting process. A lot of kids don't get to and they wish they were. As much as I wanted to complain about it I wouldn't have traded it for anything. Just to be considered as a scholarship athlete at any Division I school is an honor."
Jack and Bill had mulled over their decision for quite some time, Jack settling on accepting the greyshirt to Wisconsin but initially keeping his choice private while Bill made up his mind. Other schools were interested, but for Bill, the question came down to walking on at Wisconsin, where he had longed to play since his youth, or taking the full ride at Northern Illinois. In the end, he decided that a scholarship was too good to pass up.
"These guys, they are identical twins and they are identical in a lot of ways," Memorial coach Gary Kolpin said. "Both programs just got better. I think what they brought to us and what they'll bring to the next level is their great desire to do whatever it takes to make themselves better and their great care and compassion for their teammates. That goes a lot toward making a program stronger and taking a program to new levels."
A linebacker and running back at Memorial, could play a number of positions at Northern Illinois, but hopes to play safety. Jack is being recruited as a cornerback, but has hopes of getting a shot at wide receiver at Wisconsin.
"I'm going to do what I can to see if I can play on the offensive side of the ball," Jack said. "Because if I had to choose I'd play offense. So I'm going to see if I can play wide receiver, but I'm a team player so if that is where they see me best fit in the program then that's where I'm going to play."
Even in setting a course to go separate ways through the next phase of their lives, Bill and Jack were together Wednesday, smiling and dreaming of bigger things to come.
"I'll miss them as people, more as people than football players," Kolpin said. "They are great kids. We've gotten to know each other a little bit over the years and, of course, through the recruiting process and I'll miss them as people.
"But they are close enough. One's in town and one's just down the road a little bit. They are close enough that we'll get a chance to follow their progress and keep up with them."