HEADLINE: Local football players sign on dotted line
By Ken Karrson
Hasan Muhammad-Rogers can relate to what Illinois State University football players recently went through.
A memorable 2014 season by the Redbirds ended one step shy of complete glory. While ISU reached the FCS championship game in January and held a late lead, it couldn’t close the deal versus three-time defending champion North Dakota and had to settle for national runner-up status. Muhammad-Rogers experienced a similar thing at the prep level in 2013 when Richards came up short in Illinois’ Class 6A title contest.
Now Muhammad-Rogers will try to help the Redbirds take that final step and achieve some personal vindication in the process. The 2014 area Player of the Year was one of several local athletes to make their college choices official last Wednesday on National Signing Day.
“This is a great place for him,” Bulldogs coach Tony Sheehan said of the impending ISU-Muhammad-Rogers association. “He is going to a national contender that runs an offense perfect for his abilities.”
Muhammad-Rogers wound up his three-year varsity career at Richards with 6,110 aerial yards on 361-of-670 passing and 72 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,569 yards and 25 more TDs. With Muhammad-Rogers running the offense, the Bulldogs went 22-4 the past two seasons and collected a total of seven postseason victories between 2012 and 2014.
Muhammad-Rogers isn’t the only local athlete headed to Normal. Also signing on with the Redbirds was Marist’s Jawill Aldridge, who continued to draw interest from ISU despite an injury-plagued senior campaign with the RedHawks.
One of Muhammad-Rogers’ favorite receivers at Richards, Spencer Tears, is headed to Northern Illinois. The “very explosive” Tears should be a “good fit” with the Huskies, according to Sheehan. Joining Tears in DeKalb will be Brother Rice all-stater Marcus Jones, who rushed for over 1,850 yards the past two seasons.
Linebacker Ramontay Hill (South Dakota), cornerback Lucas White (Northern Michigan), cornerback Kentrell Pierce (Central Methodist), lineman Josh Hettiger (Wisconsin-Whitewater) and cornerback Maurice Coleman-Williams (Wisconsin-Stout) were Richards’ other signees. Hill and Hettiger, who will be joining the Division III national champions, were both all-area first-teamers in the fall.
Sheehan believes each of his players can eventually make an impact.
“[White is] a good corner that has the length that a lot of coaches like,” he said. “Pierce is a good cover corner that will only get better and [Coleman-Williams] got better as the year went on.”
Other Rice players who signed last Wednesday were quarterback Alex Alarcon (McKendree) and kicker Spencer Scott (Harvard).
Shepard’s Kyle Dye declared his intention to attend Valparaiso, all-area defensive back Keyon Lansdown will play for Robert Morris and quarterback Chris Henington is going to Lindenwood-Belleville. Evergreen Park’s two signees were quarterback Sean Ryan (Grand View) and receiver Kerron Brown (Washington Christian).
“I am looking forward to see what they can do at the next level,” said Mustangs coach Ray Mankowski, who added other athletes he expected to make a decision last week “are holding out for whatever reason.”
While St. Laurence didn’t announce any football signings, it did have four soccer players make their future intentions known. Mike Witkowski and Josh Niloff will both enroll at Loras, Palos Hills resident will stay in the area by attending St. Xavier and Mikey Stevens is planning to attend Cornell (Iowa).