On Super Bowl Sunday, a day where much of America pays at least some attention to football, Edwardsville High all-state linebacker Zac Rujawitz figured it was time to make his college choice official.
Edwardsville’s all-time leading tackler gave a verbal commitment to Drake, choosing the Bulldogs over offers from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Northwest Missouri State and several Ivy League schools.
The Super Bowl party at the Rujawitz house suddenly had a little bit more to celebrate.
“I thought it was right,” Rujawitz said when asked about making his official announcement on Twitter on Sunday. “I was honestly going to hold off until signing day, but I had a long talk with my dad about it and we figured Super Bowl Sunday would be a memorable day for us. It worked out for the best.”
In other area recruiting news, Edwardsville sophomore defensive lineman A.J. Epenesa got a visit and a scholarship offer from Missouri coach Gary Pinkel on Friday, as well as an offer from Notre Dame. Epenesa, one of the top sophomore recruits in the nation at his position, has 14 offers from some of the top programs in the country.
O’Fallon senior defensive end-tight end Jeff Jones committed to Eastern Illinois and linebacker Marques Cooper and defensive back Keajion Jennings committed to Division II Central Missouri.
What was it that sold Rujawitz on Drake, a school in Des Moines, Iowa that competes in the Pioneer Football League and was 7-4 last season?
“I’ve always known I wanted to play at a school that had great academics and they had one of the best business schools in the Midwest,” Rujawitz said. “I also felt I could dominate with the defensive scheme they have and the position (inside linebacker) they’d have me playing.
“Obviously all three schools have a competitive nature with football, but it was definitely the academics at Drake that was the final selling point with me.”
The other former metro-east player at Drake is former Columbia offensive lineman Grant Snow.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound linebacker also talked to Yale, Princeton and Cornell in the Ive League, but felt the distance worked against him.
“I just felt it was too far to play out there,” said Rujawitz, who helped Edwardsville reach the Class 7A semifinals as a junior and the second round in 8A this season.
He had 84 tackles and one interception as a senior and 105 tackles and two sacks as a junior, finishing his career with a school record 303 tackles.
Edwardsville’s senior recruits include quarterback Dan Marinko (Central Missouri) and linebacker Curt Mueller (Northwest Missouri State), with several more possible signings ahead.
“During the season we all talked about it, how unbelievable it would be if we could all end up at the same place,” Rujawitz said. “Taking our separate ways is how it’s meant to be, but we’re all happy for each other. We all know we’re going to do big things wherever we are.
“That’s one of the great things about Edwardsville. They’ve prepared us very well for the next level.”
O’Fallon recruits commit
Cooper (5-11, 210) had a productive season for O’Fallon with 49 tackles and a sack.
“I think he’s going to be a great fit there at Central Missouri,” O’Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst said. “Unfortunately for the bigger schools, he was just a litte short. Everybody wants that bigger size linebacker and he’s just a little short.
“He’s a great player. everybody gets caught up in measurables sometimes which is crazy, but it’s part of the business.”
Joggerst said Jones (6-5, 210) also considered Ohio University, SIU Carbondale and Indiana State before deciding on Eastern Illinois. Jones had six catches for 111 yards as an all-Southwestern Conference tight end and three sacks and two forced fumbles on defense.
“It’s his big frame and pass rushing ability,” Joggerst said of Jones, a senior transfer from Chaminade College Prep in St. Louis who played at O’Fallon for one season. “He’s pretty long and pretty fast. Everybody wants a pass rush defensive end these days.”
Joggerst said Jennings is headed to Central Missouri and offensive lineman Dakota Weymough (6-4, 255) is headed to Lindenwood-Belleville. Jennings had 22 tackles and one interception.