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updated: 2/9/2017 9:11 PM

Michael Marchese's Illinois commitment has twins on parallel Big Ten tracks

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  • Stevenson's Michael Marchese, at right as Palatine's Dylan Tapia tries to make the tackle, has a football future awaiting him at Illinois.

      Stevenson's Michael Marchese, at right as Palatine's Dylan Tapia tries to make the tackle, has a football future awaiting him at Illinois.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

Michael Marchese won't miss his identical twin. That's the Stevenson senior's plan, anyway.

Sorry, Henry.

If the opportunity comes in the next 4-5 years, whether at the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium or the University of Iowa's Kinnick Stadium, Michael doesn't plan to miss. He intends to light up Henry, assuming Henry is speeding diagonally or vertically downfield on a route.

"I can't wait for that moment," Michael joked in a defensive-guys-love-hitting-offensive-guys moment.

On a personal level, sure, Michael will miss his twin.

But life goes on for the two baby boys from the Marchese Football Factory. That's a good thing. Michael, a 6-foot-3 safety, announced this week that he plans to continue his education and football career at Illinois, where, he will be a priority walk-on. Last week, Henry, a 6-3 all-state wide receiver who's equally tough and football savvy, signed a letter of intent with Iowa.

In the end, Michael chose Illinois over Army. He said both Army and Indiana State offered him a scholarship.

"My gut was telling me to go with Illinois, and coming from a Big Ten family, I just like the culture and the tradition," Michael said. "We're about to win a lot of games."

At Illinois, Michael will reunite with his brother Jim, a linebacker who completed his freshman redshirt season with the Illini last fall. The Marchese's dad, John -- whose oldest son, Joe, played center at Maryland -- was a running back at Iowa.

"His dream situation was that both of us (twins) go to Iowa, but he understands and he's totally on board with me going to Illinois," Michael said. "My parents (John and Julie) didn't really push me to one side or the other (Illinois or Army). It was my decision. Which I'm happy about it, and I think they're happy about it too."

As a walk-on, Michael will head to Champaign in June. Like Henry, he played wide receiver for Stevenson but shined even more on defense.

After telling his family members about his decision to choose Illinois, Michael informed defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson and Illinois head coach Lovie Smith. The Illini went 3-9 in Smith's first season last fall.

"Originally, I was being recruited as an athlete," said Michael, who wants to try to get in Illinois' business school and possibly pursue law school eventually. "But I was on the phone with Coach Smith (on Tuesday) and he asked me what I would preferably play. I said strong safety, and he agreed."

While athletes from several sports inked their names to letters of intent on National Signing Day last week, Michael resisted temptation and didn't make a hurried decision.

"I wanted to see where people went and where the dust settled," he said. "I think waiting it out was beneficial to me. It (allowed) me to gather my thoughts and not have the pressure of signing on Signing Day."

After Michael announced on Twitter his decision to attend Illinois, quick-witted Henry tweeted back, "Family Feud October 7th."

Illinois visits Iowa on that fall Saturday.

"It is 'Game On,' " Michael said with a laugh. "We've been talking about it. Week 5."

For the first time, the twins will be separated. But then, they'll be in adjacent states and playing in the same conference. Hold the tissue.

"If the opportunity was there and we were playing on the same team, that would be awesome," Michael said. "But it's a business and we go on different roads. I'm happy for (Henry) that he's going to Iowa. That's the place where he wants to be, and I'm content with my decision to go to Illinois. I'll, for sure, see him a lot. I'll be following his games. I'll come out to some games maybe on a bye week or something."

So a new chapter starts for Stevenson's fab football twins. Close the book on recruiting.

"I am relieved," Michael said. "I'm happy that it's over because it's probably one of the most stressful processes ever."

It ended well for Michael and Henry. A twin ending.

jaguilar@dailyherald.com

• Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeAguilar64

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