One of the most productive tacklers in Southern Illinois over the past four seasons will be staying close to home for his college football career.
Althoff High senior all-state linebacker Bryson Strong made a verbal commitment to play for Southern Illinois University Carbondale on Saturday, keeping him two hours away from home while playing for the Salukis.
“I really like what the coaching staff has going on down there and the direction of the program,” said Strong, a 5-foot-11, 220-pound senior with 81 tackles, four sacks and an interception during Althoff’s 9-0 start. “I just want to be a part of it and help them win a national championship.”
The Crusaders (9-0) open the Class 4A playoffs as the top-ranked team in the state.
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Salukis coach Nick Hill also played quarterback at SIU and Du Quoin High School. Hill is quite familiar with Althoff from his one-year stint as Carbondale High School’s head football coach in 2013.
“As of late a lot of schools have been on me a lot harder, but after I went on my unofficial visit to SIU this summer I knew,” Strong said. “I knew when I got the offer that’s where I wanted to be. I’m 100 percent committed to the school. I really appreciate the integrity and honest of Coach Hill and his staff.
“They did everything that they told me they would throughout the recruiting process. I really appreciate that.”
Strong helped Althoff reach the Class 4A state championship game as a junior, piling up a team-leading 155 tackles, 10 sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception. As a sophomore he was credited on team statistics with 169 tackles, three sacks, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
“I love the campus, it’s really nice and I like what they’ve got going on with the defensive schemes,” said Strong, who received his offer from SIU within the last two weeks. “There’s been a lot of talent here at Althoff and a lot more players have offers and the opportunities to go somewhere.”
Althoff coach Ken Turner feels the Salukis are getting a solid linebacker in Strong.
“I’ve heard nothing but good things about Nick Hill and all my experiences have been good,” Turner said. “I feel very comfortable with a kid like Bryson going to play at SIU. They’re getting a great player and a guy whose heart and effort is second to no one.
“He’s faster, he’s more explosive and understands his role on the field more this year. He’s a bigger, stronger and faster linebacker than the year before, and that’s saying something because he was really good before.”
The Salukis are 2-5 this season in their first year under Hill.