BATAVIA – Nolan Eike wasn't about to miss playing time despite his left knee cap displacing and then snapping back into place.
A state title run was on the line.
Batavia's 6-foot-6, 260-pound offensive lineman suffered a medial patellofemoral ligament injury in Week 8 last fall. Through the expertise of the Batavia training staff and a special brace, Eike didn't miss a beat and helped pave the way to Batavia's second football state title in November.
Over two months later, Eike and three of his Bulldogs teammates participated in a ceremonious signing of their collegiate letters of intent Wednesday evening as part of National Signing Day.
"It would still come out maybe four times a week. The weird thing about it was it would come out and go right back in on its own," Eike said, recalling his knee injury. "I never had to push it back into place. My leg would just kind of give out."
Now four weeks removed from surgery and embarking on a projected four to six-month recovery, Eike will be on his way to Central Michigan of the Mid-American Conference, where he officially committed back in December during the early signing day period.
Eike, a two-year starter at Batavia, will redshirt his true freshman season – allowing an opportunity to acclimate to the football program. He had 10 offers, including from MAC West division rival, Ball State.
Defensive lineman Michael Bautch (Wisconsin-La Crosse), running back Reggie Phillips and safety Michael Niemiec (Grand Valley State) were also recognized.
A future history major, Bautch has aspirations to be a high school teacher.
Football-wise, his goal is to contribute on special teams and perhaps be a part of the "travel squad", which would allow him to travel to away games. At this point, Bautch isn't aware of any possible redshirt for the Division III program.
"I feel the culmination of a lot of hard work at Batavia and a lot of success," Bautch said. "This is the next step. One door is closing and another one's open. It's exciting and it's scary, but overall it's really awesome."
Niemiec, named Class 7A All-State this year, joins St. Charles East linebacker Abe Swanson at Grand Valley. The pair played together in youth football, but their high school playing days pitted them opposite each other as opponents.
Batavia narrowly defeated East 7-0 last season. Swanson was a prominent reason why the Saints slammed the door on Batavia four times in the red zone.
"I'm just happy he's on my team now and I'm on his side of the ball," Niemiec said of Swanson.
Niemiec may be moved to nickel back or outside linebacker in college and could be redshirted. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder had initial interest in Grand Valley before playing football there became a possibility.
Coming off right knee surgery for a cleanup following his junior year in January 2017, he went to a camp over the following summer. The rest was history.
"It's bittersweet, but I'm more excited," Niemiec said on the next steps.
East linebacker Nico Piaskowy and Swanson had an NLI ceremony at the school earlier in the afternoon. Piaskowy is headed to Aurora University. Due to the early signing day period back in Dec., quarterback Clayton Isbell and running back/defensive back Nick Garlisch already made their decisions.
Phillips was so impressed with the program and school that it was the only one he seriously entertained.
"I talked to a lot of other coaches, but when Robert Morris came, they sold me immediately," said Phillips, a future business major.