Four Libertyville football players didn't need pens, nor their brilliant brains, to make it official.
Skyler Blacker, Tyler Jost, Ryan O'Malley and Jack Ruskell had made smart decisions.
Wednesday morning was just a fun day for the Wildcats' "A" Team to get together with peers, fellow college-bound student-athletes, as Libertyville celebrated National Signing Day in the high school cafeteria.
This was easy for Blacker, Jost, O'Malley and Ruskell.
After all, from an academics standpoint, how do you go wrong with Carnegie Mellon University (Blacker), Yale University (Jost), the United States Military Academy (O'Malley) and the University of Alabama (Ruskell)?
"I think being an athlete and being able to control yourself in sports carries over with time management and studying abilities," said Blacker, a 6-foot-2, nearly 300-pound, wider-than-a-Chevy Suburban defensive lineman who will play ball for the Division-III Tartans in Pittsburgh.
Blacker sports a 4.0-plus GPA and pulled a 31 on his ACT. He plans to major in finance and minor in computer science.
Jost will tell you that choosing the right college can be hard. It can make Pi seem as easy as pie. Last April, the 6-6, 280-pound offensive lineman gave a verbal commitment to Iowa State. After a standout senior season that saw him earn IHSFCA Class 7A all-state honors, he de-committed from Iowa State in November.
"I don't want to talk about it," Jost said, politely. "What's done is done. It just wasn't going to be a fit at the end of the day."
So Jost re-entered the recruiting game. He visited Yale the first weekend of December, loved everything about the Ivy League school in Connecticut and said yes to the Bulldogs' offer.
"Once I got a second go at recruiting, I really looked into academics because that degree is what you have after college," Jost said. "I really want to get a good degree, and Yale's degree is second to none."
Post-college, Jost, who says his family follows the stock market, wants to do something with Wall Street and be a financial analyst. He, too, is an "A" student.
After what he's gone through in the last year, he can probably teach a class on recruiting.
"I learned that I need to trust my gut and that everything happens for a reason," Jost said. "And once one door closes, another is waiting wide open. In this case, I'm thrilled with the second door that's opened."
Ruskell will be a priority walk-on at Alabama. The 6-3, 200-pounder, who did a creditable job of filling the King Kong-sized shoes of Riley Lees at quarterback and helping the Wildcats return to the state playoffs last fall, is one of Jost's best friends. Ruskell's dad, Tim, has friends in high places.
The former Bears director of player personnel, Tim Ruskell is now a scout for the Tennessee Titans. Through his dad's contact's, Jack got his football film looked at by Alabama director of player personnel Jody Wright, who liked it enough to pass the film onto then-offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
"That's how I was able to get a Game Day visit back in November," Ruskell said. "That was cool getting to go down there. Then I got to go to a QB meeting and all that, and I just loved it. And I like (head coach) Nick (Saban) too, even though he's kind of a tough. I got to see one of the team meetings before a game. He was trying to get his team going. That was the week after they had a really bad game against a bad team."
Ruskell says he was also talking to Louisville, Florida and South Florida about walk-on opportunities. In Tuscaloosa, he'll study mechanical engineering when not trying to establish himself as a D-I QB for the national powerhouse.
"They always like having a guy who can stand in the pocket and throw, and that's what they liked seeing on my film," Ruskell said of Alabama. "They also told me that I was better than the guys who had walked on there before. That was something that drew me in."
Jost couldn't be happier for his friend.
"He really commanded us well on the field this year," Jost said. "The thing about Jack that everyone loves is that he always has a smile on his face. He's one that people will follow because they respect him. He's just a great kid to be around."
He's in the Army now
Like Jost, O'Malley had ups and downs on his recruiting journey. A 6-4, 260-pound, all-conference defensive end for the Wildcats, he committed to Illinois last summer. But when the Illini made a head-coaching change, O'Malley had a change of heart.
A week later, Army offered him. And like any good student, O'Malley (3.6 GPA) did his homework.
"(Initially), I didn't see myself going to Army because I didn't necessarily look into the opportunity," O'Malley said. "But when they reached out to me and offered me that football scholarship, I considered them seriously and decided to look into them. As I did that, it was just a glorious process. Everything I learned about them I just loved."
He finally committed to Army in Week 8 of the high school season.
"You probably hear it all the time -- recruits talk about when it feels like home," O'Malley said. "I took two visits there already, and I'm going to take an official this weekend. I've met a ton of the guys. On my visit there, the one thing that kept running through my head was, 'I can see myself here.' That's what allowed me to make the decision."
Not surprisingly, he appears to have chosen wisely.
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