LOMBARD, Ill. - Roughly three years ago, Paul Szczesny founded his company Core 6 Athletes, and his vision quickly became thee training ground for many of the Chicago area's top football prospects.
Highlighted by the word “compete,” Core 6 Athletes took a big step forward on Wednesday evening as Szczesny and his staff, including former Iowa offensive tackle Mike Jones and former Illinois receiver Chris James, hosted their first-ever banquet.
Szczesny had star power at his event. Illinois coach Tim Beckman was the featured speaker and didn’t need a microphone with all the energy and passion he brought to his words to close the evening. Ohio State assistant coach Mike Vrabel, also a 14-year NFL veteran and three-time Super Bowl champion, started the evening off getting laughs from many of the kids and their parents in attendance.
Besides Beckman and Vrabel, coaches from Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Indiana, Ball State and Southern Illinois were in attendance. Beckman also brought a lot of his coaching staff.
Some of the top prospects that gathered included Michigan commit Logan Tuley-Tillman, Michigan State defensive end commit Demetrius Cooper, Iowa offensive line commit Colin Goebel, Vanderbilt defensive back pledge Jalen Banks, Illinois running back commit Kendrick Foster, and arguably the two top juniors in the state in the class-of-2014 in linebacker Clifton Garrett and offensive tackle Jamarco Jones. Roughly 50 of the best players from the area were on hand.
Beckman Brings The Heat
The Illinois head man quickly turned his speech into a “team meeting.”
In dropping the microphone and pacing back and forth, Beckman talked about four words that are huge to the Illini program.
“Family.” He correlated the family feel he’s building at Illinois and what Szczesny is doing at Core 6.
“Willing.” Willing to do whatever it takes, willing to help the man next to you, and willing to develop into the best you can be.
“Committed.” Be committed to doing everything you can do to be the best you can be.
“Gratitude.” Being grateful to your parents, teammates and all the people that have helped you get to where you are today.
“Be committed to excellence and be excited,” Beckman told the group. He’s been around football in some capacity for all 47 years of his life. “That’s all I can ask.”
Beckman ended things with a “Go Illini!”
Vrabel Very Funny
The Ohio State assistant coach says he’s blessed to be back working at his alma mater after having a long and successful NFL football career.
However, Vrabel quickly learned that it’s not a smart thing to be a hands on coach.
While working with Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year John Simon one day in practice, Vrabel talked about having his shoulder dislocated in a drill where he was the offensive lineman. “I learned the hard way,” Vrabel said.
With the same passion he played with, Vrabel also brings it to the sideline as a coach. It also cost him 10 stitches to the forehead as he talked about head-butting one of his players with a helmet on prior to the Michigan game. “I’m learning,” he added of what not to do.
Vrabel urged the kids to “play football for as long as you can, go as hard as you can, and play as fast as you can because it’s the greatest game in the world. He also said if you don’t go to Ohio State, he hopes everyone goes to another Big Ten school because it’s all about competing against the best.
Being able to coach after a long NFL career, Vrabel called it living in “fantasy land.”
“When you go to a place like Ohio State, you don’t want to leave,” he said.
Szczesny and his staff awarded a few of the young men in their program.
Lineman Of The Year went to Tuley-Tillman, who regularly made the three-hour drive from Peoria, Ill. to work with Jones and the Core 6 staff.
Defensive Player Of The Year went to Banks, who shined at nearby Harvey (Ill.) Thornton Township.
Offensive Player Of The Year was awarded to Foster, who like Tuley-Tillman had to make the six-hour roundtrip drive back and forth from Peoria to train.
Newcomer Of The Year was given to Downers Grove (Ill.) South freshman Erik Swenson, who already holds verbal offers from Michigan and Notre Dame. The Wolverines are the team Swenson grew up rooting for and he’s looking to attend a bowl practice in Ann Arbor. Swenson is also excited about Notre Dame and plans to return to South Bend for camp in the summer.
News & Notes
-Crete (Ill.) Monee senior cornerback Jaylen Dunlap recently saw his first two offers come from UAB and Eastern Michigan.
-Szczesny acknowledged several other athletes on Wednesday night including Ian Bunting, Brian Allen, Jake Kolbe, Nile Sykes, Matt Morrissey, Zach Novoselsky, Kirk Barron, Simmie Cobb, Kirk Barron, Boston Matthews and Jameer Thurman.
-The third-annual Core 6 Winter Showcase is scheduled for Jan. 21.