Akouris: King readies for next step in life
By Tina Akouris email@example.com March 3, 2013 10:04PM
Updated: April 5, 2013 6:16AM
Blake King was sitting around with his family watching a bowl game on New Year’s Day.
Sounds typical of a high school football player — or any football fan, for that matter. But the team and the game that King was watching was significant. It offered the Minooka senior a glimpse into his future.
On Feb. 6 King signed his letter of intent to play football at Northwestern. The game he was watching with his family? The Wildcats’ 34-20 victory over Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl — the first bowl victory for NU since the 1949 Rose Bowl. The Gator Bowl win snapped a nine-bowl losing streak for NU.
Was King aware he was watching a small piece of college football history?
“Yes, it’s definitely historic and that proves there are better things to come,” King said. “I’m not really worried about the whole thing, just anxious to get started and I can’t wait to get there.”
In between days
So what does King do now? He signed his letter. His high school career is over.
It’s like he’s in a kind of limbo.
Enrolling early? Not really an option. NU coach Pat Fitzgerald has never really advocated high school seniors graduating early to enroll at their respective universities to start their collegiate athletic careers. Fitzgerald, a former Wildcat All-American linebacker, has used the best example he knows: himself.
When he was a senior at Sandburg, Fitzgerald played baseball during the spring and then immersed himself in the NU football program during the summer — just like everybody else.
King, at 6-5 and 280 pounds, has been working out and staying in touch with Fitzgerald and the NU coaching staff.
“I’ve been working out a lot at different gyms and at (Minooka),” King said. “Northwestern has given me a new workout regimen and diet to follow, and I’m doing more agility work.”
King is only the third Minooka football recruit to sign with a Big Ten school since running back Russ Weil and long snapper Kyle Knezetic played at Illinois from 2004-07.
“It is kind of a (big deal), but it’s not like there was a ceremony for my signing,” King said.
NU offensive line coach Adam Cushing said what attracted the coaching staff to King in the first place was the game film they saw on him and how explosive King was off the ball.
“He stood out right away,” Cushing said. “And he has a lot of positive attributes that have the same model of the kind of offensive linemen that we have here at Northwestern.”
King has put the football season behind him. It didn’t turn out the way he had hoped, with the Indians finishing at 4-5 and just missing out on the playoffs. Minooka was fourth in the Southwest Prairie Conference.
“I’m upset at how we finished,” King said. “It stinks that we didn’t make the playoffs, because I’ve never experienced a losing season before. We’ve always been consistent.”
NU’s spring football practice began Feb .27. King said he’s planning on going to a few practices — “as many as I can” — and the annual spring scrimmage on April 13 at Ryan Field.
Cushing said King is allowed to attend as many practices as he likes, without the worry of NCAA restrictions rearing their ugly heads.
So if King goes to most of the Wildcats’ 15 practices, what should he expect to learn? Quite a bit, Cushing thinks, even if King isn’t allowed to participate in team meetings. He can only observe them.
“Mainly it’s about the tempo we practice at,” Cushing said. “He needs to learn the verbiage and the minutiae but until you actually do (the practices), it’s tough. And it’s about what kind of physical condition he needs to be in.”
And King had mentioned how he’s working out and following new diets and workout regimens that the NU staff has prescribed. Cushing is adamant that King bulk up “the right way” in order to get into Big Ten shape.
So with King being the third player from Minooka to go Big Ten in football, this should bring more attention to the Indians’ program. Cushing agrees, but there’s another factor that will bring Minooka more attention in the future as well.
“Any Big Ten recruit is going to draw attention to that school,” Cushing said. “It causes us to take a harder look (at a program), but it really is all on the individual.”