Here are some answers to questions that I am frequently asked by the media and coaches and college football fans as I travel across Illinois and the rest of the country to evaluate talent:
Who were the best players you have seen in Illinois?
There is no clear-cut answer to that, not like Randy Moss, who was the best player I ever saw nationally. I started with Weber's Tim Marshall in 1979. He went to Notre Dame. Proviso East's Philip Maclin might have been the best. He was Player of the Year in 1998 but got into trouble and now is in jail. Niles West's Rashard Mendenhall was the best running back but he was hurt. Wheaton North's Jim Juriga was the best offensive lineman. On defense, for one game, Mount Carmel's Simeon Rice, was the best. And St. Rita's John Foley made 180 tackles as a junior, propelling him to be USA Today's Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.
Who was the biggest sleeper?
Chicago Vocational's Chris Zorich. He was on my All-Area and All-Midwest teams but the Sun-Times didn't pick him. He didn't receive any postseason honors but I told all the colleges about him. Not even Public League coaches were excited about him. But he was exceptionally aggressive and his motor was always running. Eventually, Notre Dame took a chance on him and it paid off.
Best players who never achieved expectations?
Maclin, who was the best athlete I've seen in 31 years and I'm convinced could have been a first-round draft choice in the NFL. Proviso West's Bobo Thompson went to Michigan State, then got into trouble and went to jail. Quarterback Jeff Hecklinski of Palatine, who never found a system he could be successful in. And St. Laurence's Paul Glonek, who attended Illinois, Iowa and Arizona. He could have been a great one, too.
Most overrated player?
Bolingbrook's Kyle Williams, who also got into trouble and went to jail. He was rated among the top 10 players in the nation by Rivals.com. I didn't rate him in the top 100. I saw him play in person and wasn't impressed. I didn't think he was that good.
Most underrated players?
Zorich and St. Laurence's Stan Smagala. Smagala attended a Notre Dame camp and was offered by Gerry Faust. After Faust was fired, Lou Holtz said they didn't want him but would honor Faust's commitment. Holtz told he that he didn't think he was good enough to pay for Notre Dame. But he ended up as an All-America defensive back and played for five years in the NFL.
Coaches who promote their players best of all?
There is no one better than former Richards coach Gary Korhonen. Also Ken Leonard of Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, Todd Kuska of St. Rita and Mike DiMatteo of Hinsdale Central.
Is Illinois overrated?
No. The Chicago area has 48 players in the NFL at this time and 10 more likely in the upcoming draft, first or second-rounders. Former Marian Central lineman Bryan Bulaga, from Iowa, will be one of the first 15 picks. He excelled at the Indianapolis combine. Three quarterbacks could be drafted -- Dan LeFevour (Benet), Mike Kafka (St. Rita) and Juice Williams (CVS), as an athlete. Only the Los Angeles area (71) has more players in the NFL than Chicago, which rates ahead of Houston, Dallas, the Tidewater of Virginia and Miami.
Where does Illinois rank nationally?
Florida, Texas and California are the top three, no question. Then, in order, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois.