HERALD ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: JAMES KREUTZ OF LOYOLA ACADEMY
Those who watched Olin Kreutz play the center position for the Chicago Bears are not surprised with the intensity his son, Loyola Academy's James Kreutz, brought to the football field.
"He's a chip off his dad," said Loyola coach John Holecek, who played with the Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers and Atlanta Falcons while Olin Kreutz was with the Bears.
"He's got a warrior mentality, just full speed every play, and he just wants to play at 100 percent effort and intensity," Holecek said of the Ramblers senior.
A linebacker on defense, James Kreutz also often came in as a Wildcat quarterback or running back in goal-line or short-yardage offensive situations when things mattered most.
That was the case twice on Nov. 20 when, at Hoerster Field, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Kreutz scored on a pair of 1-yard runs in Loyola's 35-21 loss to Lockport in the Class 8A semifinals.
"He's fast, and he's bigger than the running backs that we've had," said Holecek, who sought a bolster in the backfield after tailback Marco Maldonado was lost for the season in Week 4.
"He's actually 25 (more) pounds of muscle, and the fact that he's going to run through people and around people, that's the difference," Holecek said.
Kreutz ran 39 times for 157 yards and 7 touchdowns, plus a 2-point conversion run. Though most of his carries were intended to only gain a crucial yard or two, he also broke a 54-yarder this season.
His greatest impact came playing linebacker. Entering the semifinal, Kreutz had made 122 tackles including 19 for lost yardage with 6 sacks, 3 quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.
In addition to his speed and long arms his play at safety this past spring increased his ability to cover receivers, Holecek said. Through 12 games Kreutz defended 6 passes and intercepted a pass he returned 23 yards.
Helping lead Loyola to a perfect regular season, Kreutz earned Class 8A all-state honors by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association. He shared the CCL/ESCC Blue Division defensive player of the year award with Marist linebacker Jimmy Rolder.
Recruited by several Division I football programs, Kreutz has an official visit scheduled with the University of Illinois in December.
"He practices just like he plays. He wants to punish every single person against him, and he's probably the best overall football player I've coached," Holecek said.
"He's a student of the game, and he plays it the way it's supposed to be."