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Kits to commits: fall sports
Celebrating the graduating athletes beginning a new chapter of their sports careers
May 11, 2023
The only Evanston Wildkit who’s sure to play two sports in college, Boaz Lieberman will be attending Macalester College next year as a member of both its football and track & field teams.
“Being a Division III athlete, I will be able to compete in two sports and attend a highly academic school,” says Lieberman. “I can focus on academics but also compete on a college level. It’s Division III that allows that to happen for people whose passions aren’t [only] athletics.”
During his senior seasons at Evanston, Lieberman contributed to wins against Indian Trail, Niles West and Glenbrook North as a receiver on the football team, as well as a third-place finish in the 4×400-meter relay at the 2023 CSL South Boys Indoor Meet on the track team. In his outdoor track season, which is still ongoing, he is a state hopeful in the same event.
I’ll definitely miss the special ‘orange and blue’ feeling.”
— Macalester College commit Boaz Lieberman
More so than any of his individual performances, however, Lieberman will look back on what it meant to represent Evanston on such a high level.
“There’s a special connection that you have with your teammates in high school, because you’ve all grown up in the same town and around the same people,” says Lieberman. “I’ll definitely miss the special ‘orange and blue’ feeling.”
He also is thankful for the lessons he learned from his coaches, particularly those on the track team, who he has known since before his journey at ETHS even started.
“We were fortunate enough to run at State in middle school. Coach Michelin brought us in that summer going into freshman year, and we worked out with him. He and the rest of the boys track and field coach coaches have just been the greatest leaders and role models.
“Apart from pushing me and the rest of the team to our limits every day, they’ve just taught us so much and helped me grow and develop so much as a person.”
On top of his athletic endeavors, Lieberman plans to pursue a major in Psychology on a Pre-Med Track.
Going into the football recruiting process, defensive lineman Flo Feldman knew he wanted a school that was equally as academic as it was athletic, and Denison University turned out to be just the place for him.
“The culture at Denison was just a lot better than the other schools that I visited, and the balance between the academics and the athletics there seemed really good,” he said. “Ultimately, what led to my decision was I didn’t want to go to a huge school, because I feel like it’s a better environment for me at a smaller school to get my work done and also get what I needed to [get] done for football as well.”
Despite Denison’s small population at just over 2,000 undergrads, the school spirit is expansive. According to Feldman, 47 percent of Denison students play sports, which was also a draw.
“That made it seem like they take [sports] seriously, and they know what they’re doing.”
Feldman’s career started when he was in second grade playing flag football for the Skokie Suburban League. In fourth grade, Feldman moved to tackle football, and he never turned back.
“I just enjoyed everything about the sport [and] everything that it teaches you,” he said.
I just enjoyed everything about the sport [and] everything that it teaches you.”
— Denison University commit Flo Feldman
Through his time playing football, Feldman has not only developed a love for the sport, but also the people he plays with.
“[I’ve met] so many new people within football, and [I’ve] built relationships. I still hangout with a lot of the kids that I’ve [been] playing flag football with . . . [since] second grade,” he said. “We just get along, and I feel like it wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t play football, [my] relationships with these people. We always have so many memories and things to talk about.”
Although Feldman is sure to miss many aspects of high school, he also has tons to look forward to, and he’s ready to get started.
“It’s gonna be a lot of fun going right into college and playing the sport right away because it’s a fall sport,” Feldman said. “[I’m looking forward to] meeting new players that I’ve never met before and building bonds that will last a long time . . . [Also] experiencing college life and having as much fun as possible while still getting work done, and playing football and winning games as well.”
A steadfast defender, midfielder and two-year Varsity player at ETHS, Patrick Osilaja is lending his soccer skills to Eastern Illinois University after graduation.
“My decision process was not easy,” Osilaja wrote in an email about his college choice. “[I] played at a ton of ID camps/tournaments for attention from coaches which eventually gave me opportunities to play at the next level. I talked with different coaches and went on multiple visits, but EIU had a place in my heart.”
Osilaja plans to major in construction management and is excited to continue creating connections through sports.
My favorite memory from my high school soccer career was getting my head shaved for making varsity.”
— Eastern Illinois University commit Patrick Osilaja
After beginning on a local soccer team at just three years old, Osilaja played for Team Evanston, FC United, and Chicago Fire Juniors before landing on Chicago Stars Academy (CSFC) in his last year of club soccer. CSFC is a European-style academy program in northern Chicagoland.
Though he is excited for new opportunities with his team at EIU, Osilaja says he will miss the camaraderie of Kits, especially his friendships with teammates.
“My favorite memory from my high school soccer career was getting my head shaved for making varsity and then the next year shaving my new teammates heads,” he wrote. “I also really enjoyed the Iowa tournament. We all became really close on this trip and built our chemistry.”
One of 14 seniors to graduate off the boys soccer team this year, Osilaja brings talents to the Division l field that will be sorely missed at ETHS. As he enters college, he anticipates even more growth.
“I’m most looking forward to traveling across the country to play soccer and to create the same brotherhood with my teammates just like I had in Evanston.”
Lakeland University commit Johnny O’Brien always wanted to play in college, although not necessarily for football. The defensive back started his ETHS athletic career in basketball, but when nets were cut down, and courts were caution taped off at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he wanted to keep playing a sport and picked up football.
“I remember summer camp. I was terrible,” said O’Brien. “That was my first time playing football. I had to buy cleats, I had to buy other equipment like gloves. It was my first time ever playing, so that was kind of expected.”
While O’Brien kept playing basketball with friends, he turned much of his attention to getting better at football. As a junior, he didn’t play much on the varsity team, so O’Brien put his head down and got to work.
Football made me happy. It was my peace. Honestly, it’s a blessing and a dream come true.”
— Football commit Johnny O'Brien
“I had a great summer camp and improved a ton,” O’Brien said. “You can make a lot of progress in three years, and I did. That’s because, with football, everybody can play. Everybody has the same unique opportunity. It’s up to you whether you are playing or not.”
Unfortunately, the effort O’Brien put in didn’t pay off in his senior year, as he broke his collarbone before playing a single snap. Despite the setback, he had shown enough ability to have the chance to play in college. O’Brien initially planned to play in junior college but shifted his focus after some counselors and coaches mentioned he could play in Division II or III.
“Lakeland was my first visit, first offer, everything. So I was really planning on going there. Their visit was the best to me. I was planning on going there because they had a lot of good things for me personally, and they felt like the best school for me,” said O’Brien.
O’Brien committed to Lakeland on March 7 and looks forward to the differences between college and high school, but he is very grateful for the friends and family who helped him along the way.
“Follow your dream,” said O’Brien. “Do whatever makes you happy. Football made me happy. It made me happy playing the game, it put me in a better mood, it was my peace. Being on that field gives me some type of peace. Honestly, it’s a blessing and a dream come true.”
With great speed and vision, senior wide receiver Mac Mettee will continue his football career at DePauw University, a private liberal arts college in Greencastle, Ind.. Having played football all four years of high school, Mettee has had the privilege of watching the program evolve. Despite a losing season this past fall, Mettee affirms that it is about more than just football.
“The work I have put in for the sport has motivated me in everything I do,” Mettee said. “Football has taught me [the importance] of discipline.”
Yet, when he first began the recruitment process, Mettee was hesitant whether he wanted to pursue football at the collegiate level. After visiting DePauw a number of times, however, Mettee could imagine himself there; he believes that DePauw will offer him a well-rounded college experience.
In football, there is [a] different kind of bond.”
— DePauw commit Mac Mettee
“I am looking forward to being in a winning culture,” Mettee said.
From the perspective of Mettee, the rivalry between ETHS and New Trier fueled a level of comradery that boosted team morale throughout the course of his involvement.
“Beating New Trier my junior year on Homecoming was extremely memorable,” Mettee said.
Growing up, Mettee dabbled in a range of sports before uncovering that football was where his passion resided. Mettee attests that football is a true team sport; it integrates the values of unity, cooperation and brotherhood.
“I played basketball growing up, but one player can take over [the] team,” Mettee shared. “In football, it’s not like that. Everyone has to [work] together. There is [a] different kind of bond.”
As he reflects on his years in Evanston, Mettee will miss the people that have shaped the person he is today.
“A lot of my closest friends are people I’ve known most of my life, so [leaving] them is going to be hard,” Mettee noted.
Mettee acknowledged that the transition from high school to college marks an important milestone, and while it may be intimidating to brace the unknown, he is excited to see what the future holds.
If you told 10-year-old Cameron Wellington-Knibbs that he would earn a scholarship playing college football he would have been beyond astonished. Cam was born in Montego Bay, Jamaica and lived there until he was eleven years old before moving to the United States. Just seven years later from the move, in December of 2022, Wellington-Knibbs announced he would continue his athletic and academic career at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Wellington-Knibbs’ path to playing college football was far from the ordinary. In eighth grade, when Wellington-Knibbs first wanted to play tackle football, his aunt was concerned over the extreme physicality of the sport.
“I started with flag football, but then in eighth grade when I wanted to play tackle, my auntie didn’t want me to play tackle because she was worried about me possibly getting [chronic traumatic encephalopathy] (CTE) injuries. Then, my gym teacher, Mr. Gessert, somehow convinced her to let me play, and I am so glad he did, because now I get to play college football,” said Wellington-Knibbs.
I’m ready to hit people already. I am also really looking forward to excelling and learning new knowledge.”
— UW-Platteville commit Cameron Wellington-Knibbs
Once Wellington-Knibbs worked his way up to the varsity football team, he had trouble getting adjusted to the faster play at first.
“It was a rough start on varsity. I had to prove myself, because nobody really knew me. My previous coach moved to Glenbard West, and he let me know that I was going to have to prove myself. I realized I was really good at snapping but had to work on my blocking.”
Wellington-Knibbs worked hard in the offseason and ended up having two very successful seasons on the offensive line for varsity. Wellington-Knibbs’ play was so good that UW-Platteville offered him a scholarship.
“[UW-Platteville] was very interested in me, but they didn’t think I was serious about them. Later on, in December, I texted [my recruiter] telling him that I’m serious about this, and I was ready to be a pioneer for them. Then, they put me down on the commitment roster and sent me my graphic,” explained Wellington-Knibbs.
Wellington-Knibbs is extremely excited to have the chance to play football at the next level but is also looking forward to furthering his education.
“I’m ready to hit people already,” Wellington-Knibbs said. “I am also really looking forward to excelling and learning new knowledge.”
At just three years old, Jack Kaplan put on his very first pair of soccer cleats. Now, 15 years later, Kaplan prepares to continue his athletic endeavors at Oberlin College, a private liberal arts institution in Oberlin, Ohio.
Considerable exposure to the sport—one that is naturally competitive—has ushered in periods of physical and mental exhaustion. However, Kaplan affirmed that soccer has offered a support system that makes the grueling moments worth it.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve [always] been on teams where everyone is super close,” Kaplan said. “When I think back to my U8 Team Evanston team, I still talk to all of those guys. I think that says something about the sport.”
When identifying potential schools, Kaplan hoped to find a place that would fulfill his aspirations, both academically and athletically. While he received several Division III offers, Oberlin ultimately checked off all of Kaplan’s boxes.
Playing at the [collegiate] level was something that I always had in mind. It was a goal I was chasing.”
— Oberlin College commit Jack Kaplan
“When I [first] visited Oberlin’s campus, I fell in love with it,” Kaplan noted. “During my official visit, the players [and coaches] really immersed me with the team and the culture. It felt like a family.”
With a total undergraduate enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, Oberlin offers an intimate experience for its students. Kaplan was immediately drawn to a smaller setting as they often provide greater opportunities for interacting with professors and students.
“[Oberlin] is a smaller school, so it’s a really close-knit community,” Kaplan shared. “I’m looking forward to having smaller classes and getting one-on-one time with professors.”
Because men’s soccer at Oberlin is regarded as a fall sport, Kaplan anticipates that juggling academic and athletic expectations may be demanding at first.
“I think that the transition might be hard [initially], balancing the workload and my commitment to the [team],” Kaplan said.
Kaplan grew up playing a wide range of sports; however, soccer offered something unique. Kaplan believes that his involvement—both on and off the field—has built character and empowered him to thrive in all aspects of his life. While he will miss being a part of the Evanston community, Kaplan is looking forward to his next four years at Oberlin and seeing his childhood dreams become a reality.
“Playing at the [collegiate] level was something that I always had in mind,” Kaplan shared. “It was a goal I was chasing.”
After starting field hockey a week before her freshman year of high school, varsity captain Anna Marks will continue to dominate on and off the field, accepting an offer to play Division III at Depauw University.
Anna has proven to many young girls that it is never too late to join a sport, and throughout her career at ETHS, she has made many highlight videos and recently won defensive MVP for the 2022 season.
When it came time to choose what college to attend, Marks knew what the right choice was.
“I knew the minute that I stepped foot onto DePauw’s campus that [DePauw]was where I belonged. It’s gorgeous, and all of my future teammates are some of the sweetest people that I’ve ever met,” Marks describes her ultimate decision for committing. “It was the best offer that I got, and I know that I’ll be very successful there.”
But, along with the excitement of college, also comes with the loss of the high school season for Marks.
“I don’t think that I would love field hockey as much without my teammates. They are my best friends, and the whole environment has made me continue to love field hockey” Marks reflects on her ETHS teammates. “It’s going to be difficult without them, but DePauw is also a really tight knit team, so, hopefully, it won’t be too big of a change.”
Anna’s major is undecided, but the student athlete balance has influenced her decision.
“My love for field hockey has made me take an interest in sports or sports management, but I’m still figuring it out.” Marks remarks. “The student athlete balance is going to be tough, but it is all worth it to play the sport that I love.”
During his recruiting process, Charlie Kremin was presented with a unique opportunity in Tufts University. The Division III school located just outside of Boston has a great football program, competing in the NESCAC conference but is also an incredible school academically. That hybrid of athletics and academics drew Kremin to Tufts and led to his commitment in December of 2022.
“Despite being Division III, Tufts still plays really good football. It’s a great school academically too. Being able to enjoy myself and getting to do what I love to do with football and getting a top tier education is awesome,” said Kremin. “It’s also a great location. I’m super excited about being in Boston. All in all, I’m just looking forward to everything.”
Kremin protected the offense and helped lead the 6-3 Kits to a trip to the playoffs in the 2021-2022 season. Combined with a dominant season at offensive tackle this year, that was more than enough to draw the interest of Tufts and Drake University, his top choices.
A special part of football [at ETHS] is playing with my best friends.”
— Tufts University commit Charlie Kremin
“I was considering Drake a lot. It was kind of like a battle of trying to play at Drake, a D1 school or Tufts, which is D3 but stronger academically. I always thought my goal was to play D1, but then I ended up really liking Tufts,” Kremin exclaimed. “It came down to a tough decision between the two schools and just got a gut feeling that [Tufts] would set me up for more success.”
Kremin’s tackle football career began in fourth grade, playing for the Junior Wildkits, Evanston’s feeder football program. Eight years later, Kremin can’t help but smile thinking about the memories made with teammates throughout his football career in Evanston.
“A special part of football [at ETHS] is playing with my best friends,” Kremin said. “There’s kids on my team that I’ve played football with for eight years. Obviously I’ll make new friends on my team in college, but the chance to play with some of my childhood best friends was really special.”
Kremin is planning on majoring in economics at Tufts.
After three years of starting on the offensive line for the varsity football team, senior Gabe Rosen had a plethora of options to play at the next level. After numerous offers and interest from Division I football programs, one offer stood apart from the rest for Rosen. When Division I Valparaiso University offered Rosen a scholarship the summer before his senior year, Rosen was quick to take advantage of a tremendous opportunity.
“Valpo was close to home. They preach the same things that ETHS football preaches, and they had my major in criminology,” said Rosen. “[Valparaiso offensive line coach] Pat Denecke called me every day during the season and checked in on me, he really cares—that is how all the coaches are at Valpo.”
Rosen was so excited to get to Valparaiso that he completed the necessary credits to graduate this fall allowing him to get to Valparaiso for spring ball.
For Rosen, the adjustment from high school to college football was a daunting task at first. As spring ball progressed, Rosen started to feel more comfortable.
The first day is a shock, because everything’s so much faster, you feel like you’re the worst football player in the world.”
— Valparaiso University commit Gabe Rosen
“The first day is a shock, because everything’s so much faster, you feel like you’re the worst football player in the world. But once you find your routine, you’re totally okay.”
Rosen started with Junior Wildkits, ETHS’ tackle football feeder program when he was just eleven years old. From sixth grade to Rosen’s senior year, he believes that ETHS’ program “100 percent” prepared him well for Valparaiso.
Rosen’s favorite memory from his time on the football team at ETHS came against rival New Trier during his junior year.
“My favorite memory at ETHS was beating New Trier my junior year,” Rosen said. “We came out hot and didn’t let up. We had fun.”
Rosen believes college football will give him the opportunity to play the game at a more calculated and serious level. While he is excited to take the next step in his career, he will never forget the times he had playing football with his childhood friends.
“The difference between high school and college football is that college is a business while high school is a game where you just have fun. During high school, you can hang out and play football with your best friends that you’ve grown up with through your entire life.”
Wildkits outside linebacker Terrell Williams would sit on his couch and watch NFL and college football games with his dad as a young kid. Recognizing Williams’ interest in the sport, his father got him a football, and Williams went outside to play with it every day. After continuing to show that work ethic on the high school team, Williams committed to Lakeland University to continue his journey as an athlete.
“When I moved to Evanston, a park staff gave me a chance,” said Williams. “He paid for me and my friend to play football for the Junior Wildkits, the youth team here. We played in practice every day at the park by our house. But we didn’t have the money to pay for youth football. Somebody saw us working so hard. They decided to do it for us. That’s where I started my journey to tackle football.”
People see me as me for football, so if I was to stop doing it, would they still see that same guy?”
— Lakeland University commit Terrell Williams
When Williams joined the football team, he found immediate success. After moving up to varsity for his senior year, he didn’t need to get used to the higher level of physicality because he had already been training at that high level since he was a freshman.
“A lot of 2020 and 2021 guys were still there,” Williams said. “I was in the weight room, and some guys didn’t even know who I was. But they still took me in. My favorite thing is the hard work and dedication you’ve got to put in. You get hit. It hurts. If you start crying, it’s not the sport for you.”
A trip to Olivet Nazarene University the summer before senior year helped to prepare Williams for varsity and potentially for college, too. Lakeland wasn’t Williams’ top school initially, but it was still an opportunity to play football in the NCAA.
“During COVID, I got to experience more things outside of football,” said Williams. “Once we took that break, I was like, ‘I gotta find other hobbies.’ Football is my dream, but there’s so much more stuff out here. People see me as me for football, so if I was to stop doing it, would they still see that same guy? Would they accept this guy for who he is? I don’t know how to feel about football in college, but it’s an exciting process, and this is an amazing experience.”
Matthew Davies will continue his soccer and academic career at Greenville this fall, pursuing a major in business or economics and competing on the Division III field. He began playing at a young age.
“My first season was [with] a rec-league soccer team,” Davies wrote in an email. “I was probably in kindergarten, but I loved it. I became quite competitive and decided to play travel soccer the next year. This was a huge commitment, but I credit this decision as the reason for me being where I am today.”
A member of the ETHS varsity team and FC Lakeshore, Davies has played on the same club since the beginning and values the commitment and connections the program has given him. His perseverance was put to the test in April of 2022 after a high ankle sprain put him out of commission for four months of his junior year.
“I managed to do enough damage to my ligaments that I essentially had to learn to walk again,” he wrote. “It took me a long time but I eventually built up the strength to play again. I’ve always believed that hard work does pay off and this was a great example for me. The feeling I had getting back out [on the field] is one that is hard to describe with words. I had accomplished something that took months of time and pain, and I’m not sure anything will ever live up to that.”
Looking towards the future, Davies is excited for the small class sizes and focused instruction of Greenville but anticipates a tough transition into the rigorous college athlete’s schedule. Luckily, due to the time he’s spent with the team, he feels a “sense of belonging” already.
“I’m going to have to train with the team every day, which will present a challenge for time management,” Davies wrote. “I was given some confidence by seeing how close the soccer team was with each other during my stay with them. The upperclassmen were very quick to help the younger students with their schoolwork and it is clear to me that the entire team spends a lot of time together.”