How good is high school football in Illinois?

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There are many critics who argue that the caliber of high school football in Illinois is overrated, that it pales in comparison to the level of basketball.

But Illinois ranks among the top 10 states in the number of Division I scholarship athletes and NFL players that it produces annually.

It is generally agreed that Illinois ranks behind Florida, Texas, California, Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. But it fits in nicely after them, along with New Jersey.

High school football is sometimes overlooked in Illinois because there are so many professional teams in the Chicago area. High school football isn't a priority, as it is in hundreds of small towns in Texas.

There are reasons why Illinois football could be so much better.

For openers, Illinois doesn't have spring football, which affords kids more time to develop and provides more opportunities to earn college scholarships.

This is an era of specialization--and it has hurt Illinois as much or more than any other state. Whereas almost everyone outside Illinois puts their efforts into football, allowing prospects in the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-10 areas to get more exposure and obtain scholarships, kids in Illinois concentrate on basketball.

Illinois athletes lack speed. Kids in the South run year-round. In the South, football is king. Kids in Atlanta are playing football while kids in Chicago are playing basketball. In fact, because of basketball, the track and field programs in Chicago, which once were among the strongest in the state, have become virtually extinct.

A lot of kids in Chicago are good basketball players but they could be great football players if the chose to be. Chicago is a sleeping giant. With such a large population, Chicago could dominate in football like Los Angeles, if more people were concerned about encouraging kids to play the game and seek scholarships.

Remember, there are many more college scholarships available in football than basketball. College recruiters are looking for quick, athletic cornerbacks and safeties and wide receivers, the kind of kids who play point guard on the basketball team.

The Chicago Public League is trying to get that message across to young athletes. I have seen growth in the last three or four years that I didn't see for 30 years. Public League officials like J.W. Smith, Mickey Pruitt, Roy Curry and Calvin Davis must be credited with trying to restore interest in football in the city. And programs such as Simeon, Hubbard and Morgan Park are developing and producing Division I players every year.

The future looks bright.

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9 Comments

High School Football in this state is average. When was the last time you seen a kid from this Sate in the top 5 for the Heisman? Also name me 10 players who started or even play for all the teams ranked in the final AP poll?

Football in this State is tilted toward the Catholic Schools. Sometimes the success of these programs are attributed to the system that these schools operate under. I am not saying these kids are bad but you can not get a true mark of a kids ability.Also competition is poor. Look at Class 6A. Joliet Catholic should have been in 8A.

I also believe there is a lot of reverse racism in College Recruiting. Just because a kid runs a 4.6 40 yard dash and is under 6 foot does not mean that he will make a bad College Running Back. There are also a lot college program who sterotype what they want at certain positions. You can never take into place is what is inside that kids heart. Will that kid endure just as much as the next one?

Illinois High School Football was definitely more powerful in the 1960s and 1970s. Illinois then ranked AMONG Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania and ahead of California. Florida wasn't in the equation--not populated enough yet. Spring Football is overrated, but the decline of Track and limited though growing agility/running sports like Lacrosse is a factor. Basketball specialization was always there, more so now. Quality of Head Coaches has declined with the growth of too powerful teachers union resulting in a stagnant pool of existing coaching talent within most Districts. This is from my experience as a former high school player, coach and current IHSA official.

I like the fact that you all want more students involved in football. I love football, but i attend a school not known for a good football team and is consider a bad highschool. Whats the point of participating in this sport when you know you could be a division 1 football player and no scouts come and watch you when your hoping to go to college to play football with a scholarship.

Hey Paul Illinois Football is among the best in the Nation. Not only are there over 100 kids every year going on to Div schools every year, But a lot of those guys are going on to the NFL. Even though kids in IL are not as fast they CA TX FL kids they are just as athletic if not more because of the many basketball football prospects.

Also Illinois Football is NOW tilted towards the South Side of Chicago- Simeon, Hubbard, Morgan Park, CVS. Name another area in the entire Country that produces more football talent.

the fact is most states in the southeast have spring football for middle school kids. also, in the southeastern states, powerlifting is a scholastic sport. if you examine how the college game has changed over the last ten years due to core strength, explosion, etc...powerlifting makes a ton of sense !

I DONT KNOW HOW WE WOULD DO AGAINST ANY OF THOSE TEAMS AND THE SOUTH BUT "IF THEY WANT IT THEY COULD COME GET IT" WE ARE JUST AS GOOD AS THEM. AND ANOTHER THING IS ITS NOT THAT STUDENTS DONT WANT TO PLAY FOOTBALL THE ONES WHO HAVE NOT REALLY PLAYED ARE WORRIED THAT THE COACHES WILL PLAY THE FAVORITE GAME AND THEY ARE NORMALLY RIGHT THE COACHES DO PLAY THAT GAME AND ALSO THERE IS AT MY SCHOOL ATLEST... THIS BIG RIVAL FOOTBALL VS. BASKETBALL I THINK THATS PART OF THE REASON KIDS DONT PLAY FOOTBALL TOO BECAUSE THEY THINK BECAUSE THEY LOVE BASKETBALL THEY CANT PLAY FOOTBALL THATS NOT THE CASE I SAY ILLINOIS STAND UP AND TAKE THE CROWN IN FOOTBALL BABY.

I must agree with the comment above. Both of my boys participate in the high ridge chargers football program..The Chargers rank within the top ten throughout the country. But to say the least, we are the poor. We do not have sponsors. Yet, our ALL American team went 12 and 1 last year. And yes, this year we are on the same path. Lets have a contest/game. Ha, must brag about our bandits. Their record is 10 and 0. Bring the south on up here.

being from chicago i would say back in my time football was king.and could still be king but living down here in texas kids are born with a football in there hands we play football 365 days a yrs.their is nothing wrong with illnois football.

I am from Chicago and I just wanted to say that anyone who downs Illinois football would be surprised at the speed you can find in Chicago with the city schools. They have an extreme abundance of talent, it's just the lack of intelligent and intellectual coaches who really know the game are rare and found really only in the suburbs and catholic leagues. The city leagues if given competent coaches would dominate the state and could push for national rankings every year.

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This page contains a single entry by Second Season published on January 19, 2008 7:12 PM.

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