It would have been understandable for the schools to start blending together for St. Charles North junior Chase Gianacakos.
The fast-emerging offensive tackle fielded 11 Division-I football scholarship offers during the past six weeks, beginning with Kansas in mid-February, and has visited several of those schools since.
But for Gianacakos, Michigan State never was lost in the shuffle and, on Saturday, the 6-foot-6, 286-pounder gave offensive line coach Mark Staten and the Spartans a verbal commitment.
Gianacakos took a second visit to Michigan State’s campus during spring break, helping solidify his thinking.
“From the very first time I was there, it just stood out to me,” Gianacakos said. “It was a special place. Coach Staten, [head coach Mark Dantonio] really have that mindset of we’re going to push you, we’re going to make you a great football player, but we’re also going to take time to get to know you as a person and help you grow as a person.”
Michigan State was among four Big Ten programs to offer a scholarship to Gianacakos in recent weeks, with Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota being the others.
Gianacakos also collected offers from Kansas, Toledo, Ball State, Missouri, Western Michigan, Bowling Green and Wyoming.
Choosing the Spartans over the Illini isn’t expected to create any dissension in the Gianacakos household, though his parents – Rich and Stephanie – were both student-athletes in Champaign.
“They support my decision but I know they’re Illini,” Gianacakos said. “I grew up being an Illini fan, so they can be Illini fans, but I think Michigan State is definitely the place for me. I’m excited.”
Gianacakos only started playing football once he hit high school after living internationally with his family for much of his childhood. At different points, he called China, England, Spain and the Netherlands home.
He is leaning toward majoring in business, and said a conversation with a business advisor at Michigan State also pulled him in the Spartans’ direction.
“Thinking about college, you can be [worried] from an academic standpoint,” Gianacakos said. “He kind of made me calmer and kind of explained to me what I could be doing now to be successful in college, which was really cool. That was big for me.”
Gianacakos said he is looking forward to his senior season with the North Stars. North’s new coach, Rob Pomazak, is a dogged proponent of the weight room, and Gianacakos said the North Stars are off to a good start there this offseason.
“Coach Pomazak brings a great energy to our program, weightlifting-wise,” Gianacakos said. “I think the team is buying into that. That’s huge for us. He knows what he’s doing, he knows how to get us big, how to get us strong, and it’s a great team-building opportunity for us all to be in there lifting together. … To meet our goals of getting back to the playoffs, winning conference, that’s huge for us.”