CCL/ESCC notes: IC Catholic’s Dominik Hulak clicks with Notre Dame, commits to Fighting Irish

Hulak felt special connection with Notre Dame staff

IC Catholic Prep's Dominik Hulak (40) runs with the ball during Class 4A third round playoff football game between St Laurence at IC Catholic Prep.  Nov 11, 2023.

Dominik Hulak wanted to find a way to make a difficult college decision.

Notre Dame happily made the choice easier.

Fighting Irish recruiting director Chad Bowden called IC Catholic’s Hulak once or twice a week for two straight months. Moments like that helped Hulak feel a special connection with the Notre Dame coaching staff, which is why he committed to the Fighting Irish on Nov. 10.

“It really showed me how much they wanted me, how much they could see me at Notre Dame,” Hulak said. “Something clicked, and I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ ”

Hulak earned Notre Dame’s interest as a Class of 2025 prospect because of his 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame. He finished with 36 tackles, six for a loss, to go along with 212 receiving yards on 13 catches for the Knights in 11 games.

247Sports ranks Hulak the eighth-best prospect in Illinois, while Rivals lists him as the 11th-best. Both recruiting sites have Hulak as a three-star linebacker.

“It really showed me how much they wanted me, how much they could see me at Notre Dame. Something clicked and I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ ”

—  Dominik Hulak, IC Catholic junior

Hulak held offers from schools like Illinois, Purdue, Louisville, Missouri and Iowa, but his decision came between Notre Dame and Wisconsin. He said both the Badgers and Fighting Irish were right next to each other, but he felt like he couldn’t pass on the tradition and opportunities offered at Notre Dame.

“I basically have my life set after college, after football,” Hulak said. “If I graduate and football doesn’t go my way, with my degree from Notre Dame, I’ll be able to go far. With football after I graduate college, if I take the NFL route, that’s going to take me far too.”

While he’ll still have a year before he can start getting ready to go to South Bend, Ind., to start that next step, Hulak is excited to be a part of a tradition not matched by many.

“Notre Dame is Notre Dame,” Hulak said. “Everything there is special and awesome.”

Crusaders’ Kenzinger picks Western Michigan

Brother Rice senior Conor Kenzinger always had a special place in his heart for Western Michigan even before he started his recruitment. He felt a connection with the coaching staff right from the start and on Nov. 3 made it official, committing to the Broncos.

“Western Michigan was always at the top of my list before I even started my recruiting process,” Kenzinger said. “It was nice and close, great coaches, I feel loved there.”

Kenzinger started that bond early with a connection he had with Western Michigan offensive coach Trevor Mendelson. Kenzinger liked that Mendelson was part of a young coaching staff that showed a lot of energy and belief in him right from the start.

While Kenzinger considered other schools like Old Dominion, Marshall, Eastern Michigan, Army and Bowling Green, Western Michigan was too hard to pass up.

“I wanted to commit to a place that felt like home,” Kenzinger said.

247Sports ranks Kenzinger the 52nd best prospect in Illinois, a three-star offensive lineman. He earned All-CCL/ESCC honors for his senior season and helped the Crusaders reach the Class 7A playoffs.

Kenzinger will spend more time in the weight room as he improves on his fundamentals, but he’s grateful for the opportunity to live out his dreams of playing collegiate football.

“It meant so much,” Kenzinger said. “It took a lot of hard work to get here. My family, my coaches, my teammates were a big part of that as well.”

Vikings’ Ball bets on himself, Illinois

St. Laurence’s Aaron Ball decided to take a chance on himself.

The Vikings’ senior running back held offers from South Dakota and Western Illinois, but he instead decided to walk on at Illinois, announcing on Nov. 19.

“I just rolled the dice on myself with that decision,” Ball said. “I feel like I can do it as long as I lock in and focus.”

Ball made the decision before St. Laurence went on its run to the Class 4A state championship. He earned Illinois High School Football Coaches Association All-State honors on top of being named the CCL/ESCC White Most Valuable Player.

After visiting Illinois in June and October and building a strong relationship with the coaching staff, Ball knew he wanted to take his chance as a walk-on. While Ball felt like other coaches wanted to know whether he would commit, Ball felt like Illinois’ coaches wanted to check in and see how he was doing throughout the season.

With the early signing period starting Dec. 20, Ball didn’t want to wait to make a decision.

“I didn’t want to take any chances, I didn’t want to wait too late and then I missed out on an opportunity at a school,” Ball said. “I wanted to make a decision pretty quick.”

Ball rushed for 1,644 yards and 22 touchdowns during his senior season. 247Sports lists Ball as a two-star prospect, but Ball is ready to show what he can do once he reaches his full potential.

“Not so many guys get the opportunity to play at the Power Five level, play at a university,” Ball said. “The fact that they’re giving me a shot as a preferred walk-on to earn a scholarship is pretty big.”

Meteors’ Coffey reopens recruitment

De La Salle’s David Coffey had to make a tough decision when he decided to decommit from Northern Illinois University on Dec. 1, but it was one he and his family thought was in his best interest.

“It was hard, because one of the coaches went to De La Salle, so we go deeper than football,” Coffey said. “It was hard, but at the end of the day I’m trying to do what’s best for me and my career.”

Coffey originally committed to the Huskies over the summer, giving them a three-star corner prospect according to 247Sports, the 24th-best in Illinois. Iowa State and Colorado State have both offered since Coffey reopened his recruitment.

Coffey said he won’t rush his decision but wants to make a decision by the end of the year. He’s planning on visiting Iowa State on Dec. 16 and Colorado State later in the month.

“It’s really how I bond with the coaching staff and the atmosphere of the place,” Coffey said. “I need to feel like it’s a fit for me.”

Hilltoppers’ Grigsby adds offers

Joliet Catholic running back HJ Grigsby added three more offers after helping the Hilltoppers reach the Class 5A state championship. Lake Forest College, Winona State and St. Francis all offered Grigsby at the beginning of December.

Grigsby rushed for 1,768 yards on 273 carries and 14 touchdowns, earning All-CCL/ESCC honors. He said Butler and Augustana are near the top of his list, but he’s probably going to wait until the normal signing period in February.

“I’m definitely trying to close it down, limit my options a little bit,” Grigsby said, “just to see if I can get some more [Division]-I schools. But I’ve still got some schools in mind.”