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updated: 12/16/2013 10:54 PM

Notre Dame part of Sykes' business plan

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  • Montini Catholic's Niles Sykes celebrates a sack against Joliet Catholic quarterback Nick Morrison.

      Montini Catholic's Niles Sykes celebrates a sack against Joliet Catholic quarterback Nick Morrison.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer


Nile Sykes had been collecting Division I football scholarship offers since his sophomore year. When Notre Dame came through with one in October, the senior linebacker didn't take long to decide.

Sykes capped an official visit to South Bend this weekend with a commitment on Sunday to play at Notre Dame. The Montini senior visited Syracuse the prior weekend, among 13 programs that offered the 6-foot-2, 227-pounder.

The academics, football tradition and future prospects made the Notre Dame bid a winner for Sykes, who transferred to Montini from Oak Park. Dating to his youth league days in Oak Park, former Fighting Irish Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner was among his fans and remains a family friend.

"He had nothing but good things to say about Notre Dame," Sykes said.

"I feel like after my four years there with that degree -- and I plan on going into business -- I feel like I'll almost have a job waiting for me because there will be so many relationships built throughout the years," Sykes said. "Notre Dame is arguably one of the best degrees you can have. Obviously, that was very appealing to me."

Sykes' combination of size, speed, athletic ability and physical prowess obviously appealed to coaches at the next level. Selected to the U.S. Under-19 National Football Team, this season Sykes made 80 tackles, 22 for loss with 12 sacks and 2 interceptions. He also ran for 3 touchdowns in goal-line situations.

"He's a big playmaker," said Montini coach Chris Andriano. "I don't know if I've ever seen a kid affect a game as much as he did defensively, whether that be with sacks or running people down, playing the pass. He was just an amazing athlete."

Sykes was recruited by former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin, since hired by Miami of Ohio as head coach.

"It wasn't huge deal," Sykes said. "I ended up making relationships with other coaches after he left."

Montini defensive coordinator Mike Bukovsky spoke with Martin and other Notre Dame coaches about Sykes.

"They were very impressed with his athleticism and his size. They're looking at him as a possible guy to play as an inside linebacker," Bukovsky said.

Sykes had played defensive end at Oak Park, and he said colleges sought film of him playing linebacker. With the Broncos he was the strong-side linebacker, and his abilities provided Montini flexibility to use him behind the line or on it.

Sykes said Notre Dame initially sees him at weak-side linebacker. Sykes added that a redshirt year is not part of the plan.

"They're going to give me an opportunity to play right away," he said. "I'm going to go in there and work hard to try to get that starting position and go from there."

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