Robbie Bowman and Adam Hunger were starting to consider Concordia University-St. Paul a lost cause.
The Batavia football seniors were intrigued by the Division II program in Minnesota but their interest appeared to be unrequited. Little did the puzzled duo know a shakeup on the program’s coaching staff was to blame.
“We were sending stuff up there, and it just kept coming back because [the defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator] had been let go already, and we didn’t know that,” Bowman said. “But then the head coach and the new defensive coordinator who had just been hired came down and talked to us again, and invited us up.
“We both decided to go up together, and we just decided we wanted to go there together, because we loved the school.”
Bowman, a safety, and Hunger, an offensive lineman, are two of four Batavia football players who took part in a signing day ceremony Wednesday morning at the high school.
They have been close friends since Bowman moved to town from Iowa during middle school.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Hunger said. “I’m going so far from home, but I’ll still have my best friend with me. Hopefully we can get to room together and grow together as players there.”
Bulldogs defensive end Marquise Jenkins is Winona State-bound, meaning three of the four Bulldogs seniors will play their college football in Minnesota.
Jenkins committed to Winona in December but acknowledged “a couple scares” in recent weeks, including some admissions confusion that since has been rectified. At Winona, Jenkins will be a conference rival of Bowman and Hunger in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The most recent decision was made by All-State receiver Zach Strittmatter, who is atop Batavia’s senior class academically and zeroed in on prestigious universities. He wound up deciding on Washington University (Mo).
“I was debating all week between Lafayette College and Wash U.,” Strittmatter said. “I had a really tough week. It was affecting some school things, and I just couldn’t get it off of my mind.
“And then on Sunday morning, my dad came into my room and was like ‘I’m ready to make this decision if you’re ready.’ I was like ‘Yeah, I think I’m ready,’ but I still didn’t know which way I was going to go, and he was like ‘I think you should go to Wash U.’ … I just needed the confirmation because that’s where I wanted to go and that’s what I wanted to do. I needed that extra kick in the butt, basically.”
Road tripping Eagles: Aurora Christian senior Brandon Mayes solidified his Northern Illinois football future by sending in his national letter of intent Wednesday, but Mayes already has been a vocal proponent of the Huskies.
Mayes traveled to Miami for the Jan. 1 Orange Bowl showdown against Florida State, stopping in Orlando to stay at a cousin’s house who attended Florida State.
“She was just talking mad smack to me about how this is FSU territory, you guys are going to be so outnumbered,” Mayes said. “I was like, whatever, watch.
“[NIU] played hard. It didn’t come out as we wanted, obviously, but still, we made it to the Orange Bowl.”
Mayes, a defensive back, was joined by fellow Aurora Christian seniors and NIU recruits Joel Bouagnon and Chad Beebe at an afternoon signing ceremony in the school’s auditorium.
Bouagnon, traveling separately, also attended the Orange Bowl and mingled with Mayes in Miami, while Beebe was admittedly “a little jealous,” having to settle for text message reports and a souvenir T-shirt.
“I actually had Christmas Day on that day with my dad’s side of the family because that’s when we could get everybody together,” Beebe said. “ … But family’s a priority, so you’ve got to take it as it is.”
Beebe, whose father is Aurora Christian coach and former NFL receiver Don Beebe, has been a workhorse since the Eagles won their second straight Class 3A state championship in November. The slenderly built receiver gave up basketball to focus on football workouts, already gaining six pounds to bump up to 170 pounds. He plans to continue filling out in the months ahead.
“I have hopes to play next year – whether that happens or not, I don’t know, but I want to be able to give it my best effort,” Beebe said. “I figured without doing basketball, I could achieve that goal moreso, being able to work out more than I would have being in basketball. We’ve been training six days a week now for quite a while, and we’ll continue to do so.”
Mayes and Bouagnon were both two-way stalwarts for Aurora Christian. While Mayes projects as a defensive player in DeKalb, Bouagnon is slated to give up his linebacking duties and play running back for the Huskies.
Bouagnon, of Batavia, thinks he can develop into a versatile, Division I back.
“I’d like to be able to do it all,” Bouagnon said. “I don’t want to [pigeon-hole] myself into one certain type of [running].”
The three plan to room together at NIU.
A fourth Aurora Christian senior, two-way lineman Josh Kok, had a late change of heart, opting for NAIA Trinity International in Deerfield over Truman State (Mo.). Kok said he likely will play defensive end in college.
Big Bosch: St. Francis product Kyle Bosch, of St. Charles, graduated early and is already on the Michigan campus, where he has quickly caught the eye of the Wolverines’ coaching staff.
Commenting on the Wolverines’ recruiting class, Michigan offensive line coach Darrell Funk said Bosch is “going to make early contributions here.”
The 6-foot-5, 311 pound Bosch’s younger brother, Brennan, is a sophomore offensive lineman for St. Charles East who already has a scholarship offer from Illinois.
McCullough chooses football, Whitewater: St. Charles North senior Nick McCullough considered himself a likely lacrosse recruit for much of his high school years, but a strong senior season at safety for North’s football team helped him decide his future lies with pigskin.
Last week, he selected Wisconsin-Whitewater, choosing the Division-III Warhawks over North Central.
“I was looking to play lacrosse in college and then, I don’t know, I just really love playing football, so I decided that was going to be my choice throughout college,” said McCullough, who had four interceptions and two punt return touchdowns as a senior. “Luckily, it worked out for the good.”
McCullough joins receiver Ben Kaplan (Columbia) and defensive back Conor Lee (Upper Iowa) as North football seniors who have made college football plans.
Balettie leads way for Geneva: Senior defensive lineman Nathan Balettie became the first Viking to make his college call, recently choosing D-III Wisconsin-Platteville.
The burly defensive tackle had designs on larger schools, such as Indiana State, but thought his injury-plagued senior season dampened his recruitment. He missed the first three games with concussion symptoms.
“I was definitely frustrated I couldn’t play all of my senior year,” Balettie said. “I definitely think it had a major part in the recruiting process, not being able to play all nine games, and coming back really out of shape hurt me a lot.”
Balettie, whose father, Mario, played college football at Northwest Missouri State, said he had never heard of UW-Platteville until a Platteville coach visited Balettie at Geneva and wowed him with a video presentation about the program. A subsequent campus visit sealed the deal.
While Balettie is the first class of 2013 Geneva player to commit, others might not be far behind. According to Vikings coach Rob Wicinski, running back Bobby Hess is weighing a preferred walk-on possibility at Indiana and also considering Butler, while linebacker Colin Griffin is sizing up UW-Platteville, UW-Whitewater and UW-Stout and offensive lineman Connor Chapman’s suitors include Augustana and Concordia University Chicago.
Several players at Kaneland and St. Charles East are also entertaining small-school possibilities.