Stacey Smith has always been about family.
And the Daily Herald's Northwest all-area football team captain wanted to make sure he had that family feeling when he chose a college.
Smith said he found that comfort level when he chose Western Illinois to continue his playing career. Smith also had offers from Southern Illinois, North Dakota State and Eastern Michigan.
"Family drives me a lot," Smith said. "When I went to Western to visit I got the same feeling that I had playing at Schaumburg. The coaches at Western really cared about me and it felt good to have that family atmosphere."
Smith, along with offensive lineman Matt Zolper, made their choices known at a national signing day ceremony at Schaumburg High School on Wednesday.
Smith was electrifying while leading Schaumburg to the MSL West title and the quarterfinals of the class 8A playoffs. He gained 1,963 yards and scored 31 touchdowns running the option for the Saxons.
"I am really proud of what Stacey and Matt have accomplished," Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling said. "They did everything to earn what they have received."
Smith, who stands 5-foot-9, will most likely move from quarterback to a wide receiver and kick return specialist for the Leathernecks.
"I played slot receiver my first two years at Schaumburg," said Smith, who plans to major in Accounting. "Football is football, and I can adapt to any situation."
Smith's teammate, all-area offensive lineman Zolper, also signed a national letter of intent at a ceremony at Schaumburg at noon Wednesday. Zolper committed to Division II Minnesota State. Zolper, who is 6-foot-1 and 270 pounds, was a four-year starter at Schaumburg and anchored an offensive line that paved the way to 4,098 yards rushing.
Smith will have company at Western Illinois, as Elk Grove's Mike Bishoff signed up with the Leathernecks at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. Bishoff, who had verbally committed earlier to Western, will be a wide receiver. He had 60 receptions for 752 for the Grenadiers last fall.
"Mike has known for some time that he was going to Western," Elk Grove coach Larry Calhoun said. "He really saw himself there and I think he is going to be a great football player for them."
Elk Grove also had two of its players sign Division II scholarships. Quarterback Adam O'Malley chose St. Joseph's (Ind.) while wide receiver John Pass picked St. Cloud State in Minnesota.
O'Malley led Elk Grove the last two seasons and was coming off a season in which he threw 26 touchdowns and had 2,745 yards. Pass caught 32 of those for 912 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Fremd offensive lineman Brad Ruehrdanz signed with Division 2 Ferris State. Ruehrdanz, a two-year starter who stands 6-2 and weights 270 pounds, played guard and tackle for the Vikings and helped them rush for 2,891 yards.
Fremd kicker Andrew Stark received a preferred walk-on status at Northern Illinois. Stark, who set 8 school records as a kicker at Fremd, was a four-year starter for the Vikings and had 35 of his 52 kickoffs last season go for touchbacks.
Rolling Meadows offensive tackle Matt Long signed at Drake. Long (6-3, 220) was a three-year starter and led the Mustangs to the playoffs in each of those years.
Barrington linebacker Colin Costagna, who many feel can play at the Division 1 level, did not sign at any school on Wednesday.
"Colin and his family are still weighing their options," Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. "He may end up with a preferred walk-on status."
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