Lincoln-Way East’s Caden O’Rourke commits to Northwestern

Will join two other former Griffins on Wildcats roster

Lincoln-Way East’s Caden O’Rourke celebrates a sack forcing a fourth down for Lockport on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023 in Lockport.

There are almost always a huge amount of unknowns for any student-athlete trying to make a college decision.

After all, who can one really trust to give a fair and honest evaluation of what one might be getting into?

But for Lincoln-Way East junior Caden O’Rourke, and the school the talented defensive lineman ultimately chose, Northwestern, O’Rourke had a unique path to gain insight on the school and the football program: His brother Devin played at the school from 2018 to ‘22.

O’Rourke announced his commitment on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday.

O’Rourke has been rocketing up recruiting boards since he was a sophomore and posted a solid junior season when he recorded 46 total tackles, which included 31 solo stops and 11 sacks. O’Rourke was a regular in opponents’ backfields and had been drawing significant interest from almost every Big Ten program and several other top programs, such as USC (which joins the Big Ten this year) and Notre Dame.

“His brother’s legacy and the familiarity of the school and the location and the education that he’ll get there all played into it,” Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar said. “And was just really impressed with [Northwestern coach Dave] Braun, and just all of those things combined. He just didn’t see himself going anywhere else. And when kids get that kind of feel, it is a good thing because it means they are confident in their decision.

“He had the who’s who out there, and he had just a real comfort level and familiarity level with Northwestern, and it was what he and his family were looking for, and again with his brother having been there the last five, six years, made it kind of feel like home for him.”

Lincoln-Way East's defensive end Caden O'Rourke celebrates after making a tackle for a loss during the class 8A second round playoff game against Minooka on Friday, Nov. 03, 2023, at Franfort. (Dean Reid for Shaw Local News Network)

Caden O’Rourke is yet another Lincoln-Way East product that will be heading to Northwestern as the two schools seem to be forming something of a pipeline. In addition to Devin O’Rourke, Lincoln-Way East alums wide receiver A.J. Henning (who transferred from Michigan) and defensive lineman Sean McLaughlin are on the Northwestern roster. Another Lincoln-Way East grad, Declan Carr, was on the Northwestern roster last season as a graduate student walk-on.

“It does seem like it,” Zvonar said of the connection between the two schools. “It is kind of a natural fit by location, and we’re fortunate to be in a real strong academic high school, and that kind of fits the Northwestern profile as well.

“And I think kids are just seeing the benefit of staying close to home playing at an extremely high level of football while at the same time getting an education in four or five years that will serve them for the rest of the 40 to 50 years of their life.”