Jacobs football coach Brian Zimmerman dropped a hint with sophomore Grant Stec after Saturday morning’s lifting and video session, without giving away too much.
“Coach pulled me aside and all he said was, ‘Your world’s about to change,’ " Stec said. “I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He gave me a fist bump and walked away. I wasn’t sure what was happening.”
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound tight end got a little more information out of Zimmerman later in the day. Then, on Sunday night, Stec’s world officially changed with his first NCAA Division I offer.
Illinois director of personnel and recruiting Pat Embleton talked with Stec and his parents before handing the phone to Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema, who offered Stec a scholarship.
Zimmerman has been in close contact with Illinois director of Illinois high school relations Pat Ryan, the former Metamora coach who is helping Bielema cultivate relationships in the state.
Zimmerman told Ryan that Stec is a player the Illini wanted to “get in on early.”
“It’s crazy, I’m only 15 years old,” said Stec, who turns 16 on Tuesday. “I never thought, as a sophomore, this would happen. This is my dream. This is what I’ve wanted to do. I want to go to an amazing D-I program and then my goal is to play in the NFL. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do ever since I was little, ever since I picked up a football.”
Stec’s size, hands and speed has drawn a great deal of attention from D-I schools. He has 11 receptions for 181 yards and three touchdowns for the 2-2 Golden Eagles, who host 2-2 Huntley in a Fox Valley Conference game Friday.
Stec caught three passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in the 2021 spring season, in which Jacobs played only four games, losing the last two to a COVID-19 quarantine.
Stec’s first varsity catch was a 25-yard touchdown toss from former Jacobs quarterback Sam Deligio in the spring opener at Huntley.
“We knew Grant, coming in as a freshman, passed the eyeball test,” Zimmerman said. “He’s 6-6, he has big hands, his route-running and blocking we’re still working on. We do a little bit of both in our offense to continue to grow his game. He’s made the most of his opportunities.”
Jacobs currently has the area’s first- and third-leading rushers in Ben Ludlum and Nasir Canty, so it’s no secret the Eagles like to pound the ball. But Stec and 6-5 Kevin True offer some tough matchups for defensive backs when Jacobs chooses to throw.
“Making some of the catches he’s made, Grant creates a nightmare matchup for teams,” Zimmerman said. “His blocking’s getting better. If he wants to play at the next level, he’s going to have to learn how to block.”
Stec embraces that and makes sure to include some of his best blocking plays when assembling a highlight video for coaches.
“Also, I’ve been focusing on my route-running, try to open D-backs’ hips, trying to make my cuts sharper so I can get more open,” Stec said. “Coach B (Bielema) also said how he liked that I have good hands.”