Dravet happy to be back on field, contributing for Wheaton North
Riley Dravet relishes being back on the football field this spring for multiple reasons.
Dravet, a Wheaton North senior, is playing significant minutes for the first time in over two years with classmates that went 9-0 together as freshmen.
And, oh yeah, the Falcons are winning -- big.
Dravet and Wheaton North are one of the area's best stories so far in this most unusual and young spring football season. The Falcons, coming off back-to-back 4-5 seasons, have won their first three games. And the first two were in emphatic fashion. Wheaton North outscored Glenbard North and Lake Park by a combined 87-7 margin.
The Falcons made it 3-0 Saturday with a 17-14 win over previously unbeaten crosstown rival Wheaton Warrenville South.
Dravet, a Drake recruit, is a big part of that success, starting at strong safety and slot back while also playing special teams.
"Everybody loves playing with each other, and we're all good friends. We're all playing for each other and that makes a big difference," Dravet said. "One person's success is everyone's success. This is the last season we're all going to play together. We've been taking it all in, week by week."
Dravet offers the perspective of a kid who's had early success, a healthy dose of adversity and worked his way back.
A two-way player on Wheaton North's 9-0 freshman team in 2017, he was brought up to varsity for summer camp his sophomore year. He started at cornerback as a sophomore, and also played special teams. Against Lake Park he made the game-clinching interception on a 2-point conversion in overtime, a 7-6 Wheaton North win.
"Just the experience you get, being able to talk to older guys, I was able to make a lot of friendships," Dravet said. "They became mentors. I'm very grateful."
He'd have to wait over two years to experience it all again.
In March of 2019, at the indoor DuKane Conference track and field meet, Dravet suffered a painful injury running the 55-meter dash. His hamstring muscle completely detached from his hip bone. At Rush Orthopedic the two bones in Dravet's hip were screwed back together and the hamstring reattached.
"I remember a lot of pain. The worst part for me is I had to wait 14 days for surgery," Dravet said. "I was trying to get back for football that fall, but I really didn't at all."
Dravet played sparingly on special teams his junior season and got in a little bit on defense Week 9, but he said it didn't feel right -- certainly not close to 100%.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit the following spring, although it didn't prevent Dravet from working his way back. He worked out in a weight room at his dad's apartment. Dravet ran the track at Monroe Middle School, did a lot of stretching and flexibility work and lifted with teammates when the opportunity presented itself.
"I would say last summer was when I was really able to get back to weights, was lifting heavier weights, I was able to run more," Dravet said. "It's been a long process."
Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski admittedly wasn't certain if Dravet would come back at 100%. Dravet perhaps was a shell of his former self athletically as a junior, but he's come back full-bore this spring.
"Where a lot of kids may back off and be nervous about it, he's like 'screw it, let's go, if I hurt it again I hurt it again,'" Wardynski said. "He plays the game the way it's meant to be played."
On a Falcons' team with a good blend of juniors and seniors, Dravet is as valuable as any player both for all he does and how he does it.
"He plays the game at a different speed than a lot of guys do," Wardynski said. "He doesn't know half-speed. He is a full-speed type kid and that enables him to be a playmaker for us."
The recruiting process, to be expected, was a challenge. Most schools were interested in seeing junior tape that Dravet didn't have. The postponed season prevented Dravet from accumulating senior film last fall.
Fortunately, local ties connected Dravet to Drake. Drake's defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator, John Bloss, is a 2011 Wheaton North graduate who starred for the Falcons before playing collegiately at Drake.
"Talking to coach Bloss, we had a lot in common; he had some of the same coaches at North," Dravet said. "I was very happy with it. It seemed like a good fit."
Dravet was over the moon when the IHSA announced that there would in fact be a high school football season this spring.
He's switched positions on defense from cornerback as a sophomore to strong safety. With more experience, he doesn't have to rely solely on his athleticism and can read routes and concepts better.
Best of all, he's back playing with his closest friends.
"Having a senior season meant a lot to me," Dravet said. "It's the first time I'm able to play with the guys in my grade since freshman year. Those are my best friends. It's been a blast. We've all known each other for so long. We're just going to come out ready to play tomorrow. We've known the South kids our whole lives. This game definitely means a little more."