Bellizzi enjoys carrying on this family football tradition
Sporting blood runs deep in Maine West senior Jake Bellizzi's family.
Jake has made a name for himself recently with the Warriors football program by following in his father John's footsteps.
The elder Bellizzi was a two-year, two-way star at running back and linebacker at St. Patrick High School in Chicago. Named all-conference and all state honorable mention for the Shamrocks his senior year, he helped lead them into their first state playoff appearance in 1985. He then went on to play at Northern Illinois.
Today, the 6-foot, 220-pound Jake carries on the family tradition by wearing the same No. 44 as his father and also wrestles in the winter sports season -- which, according to Maine West football coach Jason Kradman, has made him a better player.
"With wrestling it has helped him with gaining strength, agility and footwork," said Kradman. "He showed what he could do last year by being named the top defensive player in the Central Suburban North.
"He showed dedication by never missing an off-season work out. He helps guide the younger players on the field and in practice. He's going to make some college coach one happy person someday. He does whatever it takes to win. You want a player like him on the team."
Bellizzi also does well in the classroom with a 3.0 grade point average and is active in the community. Bellizzi helps out with other teammates at Bessie's Table in Des Plaines, which is a food pantry for the needy.
Bellizzi favors defense but is not shy about carrying the ball.
In the Warriors' opening game win against Mundelein, Bellizzi carried the 17 times for 72 yards, scoring 2 touchdowns. On defense, he made 8 tackles, including 2 for loss.
On Friday at Fenton, he scored the first touchdown in a 64-13 romp and finished with 34 rushing yards on 5 carries.
"I like the contact when I'm on defense," said Bellizzi, "I'm a hitter. I like running the ball on offense also. I want the ball in the short-range situations, to get us the first down or score. I just love to compete and battle.
"But I know I still need to work on my game in some aspects. I want to work more on my pass coverage. I've been trying to read what the offensive guard does and then react off of the play. One thing that I have improved upon is shedding the blocker and filling the holes to make the tackle."
How helpful has John been to Jake?
"I'll ask my dad for advise if something questionable happens during the game and then I work on what he observed," said Jake.
"The best advice I could give him is to stay focused, use your speed and make the play," said John. "One thing we have in common is that we were both self-motivated when we played. He took to football at 8 years old. It was his sport."
That background ended up making a difference at Maine West.
"Jake was a dominant player as a freshman," said Kradman. "We brought him up to the varsity near the end of the year just so he could see what varsity ball looked like. As a sophomore he was up on varsity and played linebacker next to his older brother, Joey. You can just see the confidence growing in him year by year."
"One of the proudest moments I've had," said John, "was seeing my two sons playing linebacker next to each other."