High School Football

Talented East St. Louis junior QB commits to Western Michigan

East St. Louis junior quarterback Reyondus Estes (5) has given a verbal commitment to Division I Western Michigan University.
East St. Louis junior quarterback Reyondus Estes (5) has given a verbal commitment to Division I Western Michigan University. News-Democrat

While he had other opportunities to play football at the Division I level, East St. Louis junior quarterback Reyondous Estes chose the one that would allow him to compete at quarterback.

Estes (6-foot-1, 173 pounds) visited Western Michigan University on Saturday and gave a verbal commitment to the Broncos and coach P.J. Fleck.

“It was a lot of thought I had to put into it and a big decision for me and my family,” said Estes, a two-year starter who threw for 789 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games last season. “Schools were passing me up at quarterback and were looking at me more as an athlete. For Western Michigan to come along and offer me as a quarterback was a real blessing.

“It gives me a chance to show my true talent on the D-1 level.”

Estes is a strong two-way threat who also led the Flyers in rushing this season with 405 yards and five TDs on only 39 carries (a 10.4-yard average). As a sophomore starter, he helped the Flyers (7-5) reach the Class 6A quarterfinals, completing 102-of-192 passes for 1,711 yards and 20 TDs with only three interceptions.

“Rey is a kid you can put in the spread system, he’s a kid you can put under center,” East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett told 247sports.com. “Western Michigan runs a spread and he run a spread here. They got a very athletic kid who is a born leader with great athleticism, and you put those kind of kids in their system and they’re going to do well.”

Estes also said he had interest from Illinois, Missouri and Jackson State, but as an athlete instead of quarterback. His extreme quickness — he’s also a basketball guard — has kept recruiting interest high.

“Coach Fleck gave me an opportunity to show my skills as a quarterback on the big stage,” Estes said. “It was a big decision, but it was something I couldn’t pass up with me training and working hard as a quarterback on the high school level.

“On the visit they showed tremendous love throughout the coaching staff. I’m an energetic player and I was bouncing off the walls all day. (Coach Fleck) was one of the coaches I really enjoyed being around.”

Estes is the second high-profile junior from the metro-east to make an early commitment. Edwardsville High junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa committed to Iowa last month.

Estes said the quarterback instruction he has received from Sunkett has been invaluable.

“Coach Sunkett is a great coach,” Estes said. “He’s not only a great coach, he’s a great role model and a great father figure. He puts in great time and effort and he loves the game.”

Estes said Sunkett brought him along quickly, showing him how to break down film and read defenses.

“Coach Sunk brings out the best in you,” Estes said. “He brought me up as a freshman and he told me he was going to make me a playmaker. He did that and now I’m able to read defenses, locate the cornerbacks and know where the linebackers are.”

Estes talked about how tough it was for the Flyers to forfeit the final four games of their 2015 season because of the East St. Louis teachers strike.

“We didn’t have control of it at all,” he said. “We had long faces for a while because there wasn’t any playoffs for our season, no chance at state for our season.”

Fleck is an Illinois native who helped Kaneland High win two state championships as a star receiver. He later played at Northern Illinois University and had a brief stint with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.

He coached at Ohio State, Northern Illinois and Rutgers before becoming head coach at Western Michigan in December, 2012.

The Broncos were 8-5 in each of the last two seasons.

The Flyers have several other Division I recruits in their current junior class led by star receiver Jeff Thomas (6-1, 165). Thomas is considered the second-best junior recruit in Illinois by Rivals.com and the 78th best overall recruit in the nation.

Scout.com has Thomas as the top junior recruit in Illinois, the second-best wide receiver in the Midwest and the 31st best recruit in the nation.

Among his 11 major offers are offers from Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M.

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders