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Johnsburg’s Jacob Welch commits to Northern Illinois University

Johnsburg football player Jacob Welch lifts a donut pad as he practices tackling during summer football practice Thursday, June 23, 2022, at Johnsburg High School in Johnsburg.

When Jacob Welch entered Johnsburg High School in the fall 2018, Skyhawks football coach Sam Lesniak knew he had something special.

Welch’s 6-foot-6 frame made him stand out first, but it was also his attitude and appetite. Lesniak loved that Welch was constantly drawing up blocking schemes for various fronts.

Welch’s ability to think and work served him well. On Wednesday, he announced via Twitter that he had accepted a scholarship offer from Northern Illinois University.

Welch had 12 NCAA Division I offers, most of which came from Mid-American Conference school where NIU plays. Huskies coach Thomas Hammock and offensive line coach Daryl Agpalsa made the biggest impact with Welch.

“Northern just felt like home. With the communicating part, talking with pretty much every coach, calling and texting coach Agpalsa and coach Hammock. I visited Northern five or six times. Northern just felt like home for me.”

Welch (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) will be a senior and fourth-year starter on the Skyhawks’ line. He is coming off a season in which he was an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 4A All-Stater and a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team selection.

“Northern’s a great place for him,” Lesniak said. “He really did the recruiting process right. He was patient and had multiple offers and did his due diligence with going and checking places out. Northern treated him very well. He made some good relationships with the coaching staff over there and really liked what they had to offer.”

It was no secret what got Welch to the D-I level, he is a tireless worker. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down in 2020, Welch worked out hard at home in his family’s basement weight room and ran outside, often posting videos of his progress on Twitter.

Kamara Welch purchased more 45-pound plates for her son to have at home.

After restrictions loosened, Welch worked out with line coach Kevin Savo at FIST Academy, working on line technique.

“I was able to bench and squat and do pretty much everything I needed to,” Welch said. “I’d work out with my dad (Matt) and just get after it. I didn’t let COVID get the best of me. I went to a lot of camps, got my name out, wasn’t scared, I wanted to compete. I wanted to play Division I football.

“I started training with coach Sabo and really trusted what he was doing. He’s a big part of this as well. He really helped overall with my O-line game, pass pro and run-blocking stuff. He’s outstanding, and I trust what he’s done. My dad’s been a big part as well.”

Welch also plays basketball and threw the shot put and discus this spring in track and field.

“It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of work that’s unseen,” Welch said. “Doing a lot of extra stuff to try to get yourself better. My dad would always tell me to do 5 or 10 minutes after practice of extra work. I’ve been doing that since my sophomore year. That’s the way I am, always hard-working and want to push my limits. Those things have made me the person that I am today.”

Lesniak is excited for his big man to have decided on his future school.

“I was always in touch with him and his parents,” Lesniak said of Welch’s recruitment. “It’s a crazy process. It’s hard to sift through everything. I just said, ‘Do what you feel is right. Make sure you visit places and talk to staff, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be patient with it too.’ ”