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Connections work for Jakubowski
 

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Connections work for Jakubowski
  • Dan Dillard

    Dan Dillard

 

An interesting journey, Wheaton Warrenville South football coach Ron Muhitch called it -- Tigers senior kicking specialist Evan Jakubowski's preferred walk-on spot with Syracuse University's football team.

It involves several WW South alumni, the end of two prep sports tenures and a 50-yard field goal.

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When Jakubowski gained admittance into Syracuse on April 9 he delivered that news and his committal via text message to Chris Gould, Syracuse's special teams quality control coach. A former star kicker and punter at Virginia and with Arizona and Chicago in the Arena Football League, Gould is the brother of Bears kicker Robbie Gould.

Chris Gould also served as kicking coach at Elmhurst College under coach Tim Lester -- the former WW South quarterback now in his second year as quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator at ... Syracuse.

Jakubowski, 6 feet and 170 pounds, visited the New York campus and met with Gould in February, speaking with Orange coach Scott Shafer just as he and Lester were heading to the Midwest.

"He said he'd love to have me," said Jakubowski, who considered Missouri, Miami of Ohio and Indiana but liked Syracuse's broadcast journalism school. "It was really neat to talk to him. You imagine these (Division I) coaches being these big, scary guys, but he felt like a friend, almost."

Last fall Jakubowski rejoined his football friends for the first time since freshman year when he was a kicker, punter, safety and receiver. A lifetime soccer player, he played soccer his sophomore and junior years at WW South.

But he missed his chums from the football team. After seeing the Tigers miss a field goal late in the 2012 season he told himself, "I knew I could hit it."

The next night, in a mini-audition for Muhitch, Jakubowski nailed a 50-yard field goal on his first attempt. After the season the coach spoke with WW Tigers soccer coach Guy Callipari and Jakubowski's parents to make sure all were on the same page. He challenged Jakubowski to get his football kicking skills back up to snuff.

"The rest of the story was all his effort and diligence," Muhitch said.

Jakubowski trained in the off-season with former Tigers kickers Dan Conroy and Nick Campos -- Michigan State and Indiana, respectively. He attended a Kohl's Kicking Camp over the winter and a Kohl's National Scholarship Camp last summer, and gained confidence working with Tigers special teams assistant Mike Doyle.

Gone from the roster were soccer, and now baseball, Jakubowski continuing his training instead of playing shortstop.

Last fall Jakubowski landed 8 of 9 "sky punts" inside opponents' 20-yard line and averaged 38.4 yards on the season. He made 36 of 37 extra points and 2 of 5 field goals. More than 53 percent of his kickoffs were touchbacks.

Syracuse, it so happened, was down to one punter (also a one-time walk-on) after another left the program. When Lester visited Muhitch during a Midwestern visit this spring the connections solidified.

"Walking in there, I'd be a backup and then I think they need a kickoff guy," said Jakubowski, eager to give it a shot.

"I still can't even take it in," he said. "It's hard to believe now, but I think it's every kid's dream to go play college football in front of 40,000 people."

Kelsey killed it

Nebraska senior volleyball player Kelsey Robinson, who helped St. Francis win more than 100 matches and finished as the program's all-time kills leader, was among three finalists for the Amateur Athletic Union's vaunted Sullivan Award.

Robinson joined Florida track athlete Cory McGee and Penn State football player John Urschel among the three finalists for the award first offered in 1930. Urschel won the Sullivan in a ceremony April 11 at AAU headquarters in Orlando.

Since it's an AAU award the organization promoted Robinson's eight national titles, five in volleyball and three in basketball, in an AAU time that started at 10 years old.

Her college accomplishments likewise are lofty. They include player of the year honors in two conferences -- the Big Ten in 2013 and the Southeastern Conference in 2011 while with Tennessee during her first three years in college. Robinson's 530 kills this season were fifth best at Nebraska, her 1,206 attacks seventh, and she earned her first First-Team All-America honor by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

Humble Hall of Famer

In the "Thank You" page he took out in the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame program, Lisle athletic director Dan Dillard thanked the organization for his induction "whether I deserved it or not."

Inducted April 12 in Champaign, Dillard definitely doesn't feel he's owed the honor.

"It's a great group of guys, I'm just so thankful and thrilled to be one of them," he said. "I'm a very lucky guy. I've told my wife (Cathy) and family that the whole time. I've always felt lucky."

Luck only goes so far. After one year assisting another Hall of Fame coach, Dale Grawe, in 1980 Dillard led Biggsville Union to its first winning season since 1961. The next season he took the Yankees to the Class 2A championship, where they lost to Danville Schlarman.

A 1973 graduate of Stronghurst Southern, he was hired at Biggsville because, in part, "they knew my reputation," Dillard said.

He added to it in two years at Monmouth Warren, going 10-8 before heading to Farmington. There, he coached eight playoff teams in 16 seasons and assembled a record of 91-64 with six conference titles. In 20 years as a coach Dillard's teams went 120-75.

For the past 14 years he has been athletic director at Lisle, the state's athletic director of the year in 2004-05. He misses coaching football -- a little.

"It was hard when I first came to Lisle, watching the first couple years and maybe keeping my mouth shut," he said. "(Coaching) was so much fun, (but) there's a lot of excitement that fills my time so I don't have that fix, that football fix."

The IHSFCA weighs service to the organization when it considers nominations. Dillard served as its president in 1997. He initiated the practice of introducing the IHSFCA all-state players before each state championship game.

(Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy was presented this year's Ray Eliot Award for Meritorious Service; one day soon he will join Dillard and Co. in the hall.)

Maybe because Dillard's been out of the game so long, or his success came closer to Iowa than here, or simply because he's unassuming, but Dillard doesn't figure his induction will rock the local prep football world.

For those closest to him -- like his wife, who he credits for "raising the kids" among other things -- it's affirmation enough.

"On a personal level," Dillard said, "we're a very happy family."

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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