An afternoon of internet browsing paid off in a big way for St. Charles East resident Meg Lietz and her son Matt Burns, who recently accepted an offer to kick for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Burns, a junior, kicked last fall for Upstate Eight River champion St. Charles East (12-1). He made 51 of 58 extra points and 6 of 9 field goals, including a long of 44 yards.
Burns began kicking after his freshman season and got better quickly. After his sophomore season he was ranked 45th in the Class of 2018 and a borderline D-I prospect by Chris Sailer Kicking. In August, he tied for 25th at the Kohl's Invite-only camp, finishing ahead of 240 of the nation's top kickers.
Burns happened to mention to his mother last month how great it would be to play for IMG Academy, which specializes in preparing high school student athletes to compete at the NCAA level. According to its website, IMG since 2013 has produced 20 Under Armor All-Americans and 63 Division-I players.
Burns didn't think much more of it as he prepared for a prearranged trip to Tampa to watch the Outback Bowl with his dad, Mark Lietz, an Iowa graduate who played high school football for Barrington in the mid-1990s.
While Matt and Mark were in Florida, Meg decided to research IMG a bit.
"I had a lot of time on my hands and I was kind of bored and I remembered my son talking about this school," she said. "Then I saw on their roster online that they didn't have a kicker."
Meg found IMG special teams coordinator and kicking coach Billy Miller on Twitter and sent him a direct message. He responded with interest after seeing Matt's resume and the sides soon began discussing tuition costs.
At first the financial gap between what IMG offered and what Meg and Mark were willing to pay was too wide for the St. Charles family to consider, Meg said, but the situation changed after Miller called to set up a tryout during Burns' Florida trip. Matt kicked well during the tryout and IMG closed the financial gap.
The result? Burns will transfer to IMG once he completes first semester finals next week at St. Charles East, where he carries a weighted 4.6 grade-point average on a 5.0 scale.
Thus, Burns will be able to compete in spring football at IMG, where he will be seen by "a ton of D-I coaches," he said. He will also take extra classes this spring and fall in order to graduate early next December.
Then it's on to one of his dream schools, he hopes. Burns aspires to someday kick for Michigan, Notre Dame, Illinois or Miami (Ohio).
"I feel like I would have still had a shot to be seen by those schools if I stay (at St. Charles East), but I feel I'll have a much better opportunity at IMG," he said. "Because of all the talent that's going to be around me, there's a ton of exposure to college coaches.
"I'm full of emotion because this is coming so quick, but I know if I perform I'm got to have a shot at my dreams."
Nubin to compete for national team: St. Charles North defensive back Tyler Nubin was recently named to the 2017 U.S. Under-16 National Football Team.
Nubin is one of 45 players nationwide who will compete against a team from Ontario, Canada, in the 8th Annual International Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Jan. 17.