Glenbard West's Tommy Schutt has been described as "a freak of nature" by scouts and coaches who have observed him. The 6-3, 285-pound defensive tackle is the No. 1 player in the class of 2012, one of the top 25 juniors in the nation, according to Chicago-based recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. Nobody seems to be arguing the point.
"Freak of nature" is putting it mildly. As a sophomore, Schutt was listed as 5-11 and 185 pounds on the game program early in the season and for the state championship. It must have come as a big surprise to rival coaches who were evaluating game film.
"They messed up. I was really 6-3 and weighed 275 pounds at the time. But they never changed it," Schutt recalled.
It didn't take college coaches very long to determine the difference. After Glenbard West lost to Wheaton-Warrenville South in the Class 7-A state final last year, they began to find their way to the Glen Ellyn school and talk to Hilltopper coach Chad Hetlet.
"I got a sense that I would be a big-time recruit," Schutt said. "It scared me a bit. I didn't know what to think at first. But I'm enjoying it."
Schutt, who is being recruited as a defensive tackle, perhaps the toughest position for college coaches to fill, has accumulated seven scholarship offers. He has visited Northwestern twice and also made trips to Illinois and Michigan State. He plans to make more trips beginning in September and hopes to make a decision before his senior season begins.
Schutt has received a lot of advice about the recruiting process from his good friend, offensive tackle Jordan Walsh, who recently committed to Iowa.
"It is fun getting attention, talking to schools," he said. "I know it will be a stressful process toward the end. I have to ask myself: 'Can I make a decision in a time frame that is best for me and the team?'"
What does it take to be a great defensive tackle?
"It is an unselfish position," he said. "You aren't supposed to make the tackle but you are supposed to open lanes for the linebackers to make tackles. You have to defend a lot of double and triple teams. You have to do it for the team."
It is difficult for college coaches to pinpoint players who can play defensive tackle at the major Division I level because they must be a combination of a different body build and athleticism than other linemen. They must play as big and as physical as possible without losing any speed.
Schutt fills the prescription. He runs 40 yards in 5.04 seconds, bench-presses 345 pounds and squats 535.
"I keep my feet running well and play low to the ground. It's hard to get beat when you are playing pad under pad," he said.
But Schutt didn't want to be a football player. Originally, his dream was to be a professional baseball player, like Sammy Sosa. He concentrated on baseball and basketball in grade school.
Even though his father had played football at Glenbard West, Tommy didn't start to play football until his freshman year. He started at fullback, then was promoted to the varsity as a defensive lineman for the state playoff. As a sophomore, he was a fixture in the defensive line. His hero was Tom McAndrew, who played at Stanford. He wanted to be the next Chris Watt, another former Glenbard West star who now is at Notre Dame.
But nobody in school history was ranked No. 1 in his class, not until now. "It's a great feeling. It is good know that my hard work has paid off. But I still have to work hard. Our biggest goal is to win the state title," Schutt said.
Schutt won't say the 2010 team is better than the 2008 and 2009 squads that lost only once in each season, only that it is "different" that the others. With Walsh, running backs Nick Burrello and Trace Sorey, quarterback Mike Matthew and wide receiver Mark Hiben, he believes the Hilltoppers can contend for their first state championship since 1983.
"We are capable of doing a lot," he summed up. "We have a lot of weapons. Our team defense is very good, very fast. And we have a lot of offensive weapons. We will be a big-play team. We will play power football, as we have done in the past."