Like many other high school kids whose recruits were suspended by the epidemic, Tommy Ulatowski of St. Rita needed a backup plan.
Unlike most, he was talented enough for a Division I prospect in two games.
Last year, Ulatowski made a verbal promise to Crayton Baseball as an outfielder.
He is a football quarterback who was part of two state finalist teams and three CCL ESCC champions.
Although the epidemic wiped out Ulatoski’s entire sophomore baseball season, it had a major impact on his football career. Looking at his junior season, it looked like it wouldn’t play until Hale Mary allowed for a six-game spring season without any playoffs.
“I wasn’t sure what kind of college football opportunity I would get,” Ulatowski said. “I’ve always loved baseball.”
So when Crayton baseball coach Ed Service made an unusual offer last year, Ulatowski jumped at it.
“The coach had an agreement with me, ‘If you promise us now, if there is a chance for football in the fall, I will support you,'” Ulatowski said.
Although Ulatowski returned the Mustangs to the IHSA State Final in 2021, there was little interest in football. His only scholarship offer was from FCS Northern Iowa – not enough to impress him with the Power Five baseball opportunity.
Ulatoski did not give up hope, but it was not an easy time.
“After my senior football year, I’m just waiting for a phone call with that positive attitude,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a place for me.”
St. Rita coach Todd Cusca worked his connections to help Ulatoski.
“He tried to send my stuff to every coach he could think of,” Ulatowski said.
Finally, in January, it pays off. Kent State, coached by Richards Grad Shawn Lewis, approached Cusker and then came to St. Rita to talk to Ulatoski.
The result was a preferred walk-on offer that promised that he would be on par with all the other quarterbacks competing for the duration of the game.
On March 1, Ulatoski announced via Twitter that he was going to Kent State for football instead of Creighton for baseball.
Cusca thinks Kent State is getting a good one.
“I think there’s ambiguity in it, the difference is the leadership, the ability to get the boys to gather around him,” Cusca said.
Ulatovsky is happy that his future is finally settled.
“It was busy for months,” he said. “A few months, ‘What am I going to do? Football is where my heart is.’
“Now that it’s set in stone, it’s a huge weight off my shoulder. I know what I’m going to do.”
Ilini Recruitment Coup
When Brett Billema took a job in Illinois, he promised to re-focus on keeping the best talent in the state at home.
Illini’s first appointment to the class in 2023 is proof of that. Caden Fagin, a four-star running back athlete from the younger Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond, pledged in Illinois on Wednesday for his 18th birthday.
Fagin, a 6-2, 235-pound Aleman offensive tackle Charles Jagusah and East St. Louis offensive tackle Miles McWay are the state’s No. 3 players behind.
New home for state finals?
The rolling host sites for the state finals look set to end this year. This is the last year of a 10-year contract where Memorial Stadium in Illinois and Husky Stadium in North Illinois had alternative hosting responsibilities.
The IHSA has posted a request for hosting from 2023-27 calling for a single site with a minimum capacity of 12,000 seats. Proposals are expected to be finalized by September 2, with the IHSA Board of Directors expected a decision in December.
The Rotating Site Plan was a product of Illinois’ desire to continue hosting IHSA games without having any home games of its own. It is unclear whether Illinois or NIU will be the sole host.
But there is speculation that Illinois State – whose Hancock Stadium has undergone a major renovation since it was in the state in 1998 – will be keen to regain its host role.