Kurt Becker's had a big effect on Palatine's success over the past two seasons.
Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
Utility man is a term usually associated with baseball.
So, it's not surprising to hear it used with Palatine senior Kurt Becker, who was on the Daily Herald All-Area baseball team in the spring.
Where it's used with Becker is on the football field as the two-year starter helped the 8-1 Pirates to a Mid-Suburban West title and a Class 8A first-round playoff home opener at 2 p.m. Saturday against Proviso West.
"I've always been a utility player," said Becker, who started as fourth-grade lineman.
Since then Becker has played fullback, quarterback, linebacker, safety, defensive end and slot receiver.
"He knows them well and he could go in at quarterback now, too," said Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly.
Where Becker has thrived for the MSL's top defense this season is at linebacker. And he's showed he doesn't just have plenty of pop on the baseball field after he hit .423 with 12 doubles, 7 homers and 36 RBI in the spring.
He enjoys the challenge of trying to deliver a big hit on an elusive running back just as much as he does against a hard-throwing pitcher.
"Both are really high up there," Becker said. "Getting one in football, when you hit a guy on fourth-and-1 and stop him on a big play is great.
"Going by the season right now I'd say football (I enjoy most) but I'm sure if you asked me in the spring, if I got a nice gapper off the barrel of the bat, I'd probably say baseball."
Donnelly is glad Becker stuck with football as well as baseball after struggling with the three-sport juggle that had included basketball at the past three years.
It paid big dividends last fall when Becker's 3 interceptions led to a Week 9 win over Barrington that put Palatine in the playoffs at 5-4 and set up a run to the 8A quarterfinals.
Becker is no stranger to having the ball in his hands in football and baseball, where he was 6-0 with a 2.11 ERA as a pitcher last spring. But he enjoys being on the other side and trying to take away the ball from someone else.
"I've found a lot of thrills in the defensive side of the sport," Becker said. "I like to anticipate and react to what other people are going to do. I've found it fun to anticipate where a receiver is going and where a running back is running to."
And it's also been enjoyable for Becker to know he's not the only hard hitter in the Pirates' defensive lineup.
"Our D-linemen really get in the faces of everybody and create a rush and the defensive backs take care of the coverages," Becker said. "We're really working well as a whole together."
Becker's future is with a bat and glove as he has been looking at Benedictine, North Park, Carthage and Harper as potential college destinations. He would like to become a math teacher and a baseball coach and has a 3.76 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale with an ACT score of 25.
But that's something he'll take a closer look at after the football season ends.
"I really want to play baseball in college but I want to enjoy the rest of this season," Becker said. "Hopefully it takes us to Thanksgiving (state finals in Champaign)."
That would be a big hit for Becker and a lot of people at Palatine.