Most of his life, Josh Kreutz has been an offensive lineman.
It makes a lot of sense. His dad, Olin, starred at center for the Chicago Bears, earning six Pro Bowl berths during 13 seasons with the team.
Blocking is part of Josh Kreutz’s DNA.
But one year in youth football, Kreutz moved out of the familiar and tried quarterback.
It didn’t take.
Center is now Kreutz’s position of choice. Starting in 2021, that’s what he will be playing at Illinois.
The 6-foot-2, 265-pounder made a verbal commitment Thursday night to Lovie Smith’s program.
He is considered a three-star recruit, according to Rivals.com. Kreutz is the 13th player — and first in-state prospect — to commit to the 2021 class.
Kreutz got his Illinois scholarship offer in February. He decided now was the time, announcing his college choice on social media.
“I just really like the coaching staff,” Kreutz said, “and I think it’s going to be a great fit for me.”
Family and high-school connections might have helped Illinois land the Loyola Academy standout. His dad, after all, played under Smith with the Bears from the 2004 to 2010.
“It definitely helped,” Josh Kreutz said. “We know what’s going on and what their plans are.”
And his coach with the Ramblers is John Holecek, a former Illini linebacker in the mid-1990s.
Kreutz didn’t let Holecek know beforehand that he was going to commit. Not that Holecek was surprised.
“This was where he was leaning the whole time,” Holecek said.
Obviously, Holecek wants Kreutz to play at his alma mater. For a lot of reasons beyond football.
“I think it’s a great school,” Holecek said. “It’s natural. I talked to him how good of a school it is and you have no questions about the coach.”
Holecek’s son, Jake, a former teammate of Kreutz’s at Loyola, will be a freshman at Illinois this fall. Having Kreutz on the team gives Holecek another reason to come to C-U.
“I’ll get to see him play a lot,” Holecek said.
Kreutz has visited the Illinois campus only one time. It’s a happy memory. His sophomore year, Kreutz and the Ramblers won the Class 8A state title at Memorial Stadium, beating Brother Rice 13-3 for the championship.
Kreutz’s college goals are simple.
“I just want to win a lot of games,” Kreutz said.
Getting readyComing off an 8-4 season, the Ramblers have great hopes for the 2020 season.
And Kreutz will be one of the leaders.
“He’s going to be a dominant player this year,” Holecek said.
Of course, the key is whether they get to play this season. The coronavirus pandemic has added uncertainty.
Kreutz worked at guard in 2019 because of an injured finger. But he is moving back to the more natural center position.
“Lovie understands exactly what the Kreutz family is about,” Holecek said. “Olin is the most committed, competitive, passionate guy about football. And his son is just like that. Olin works with him constantly, so his technique and his training is from the best in the world.
“You know you’re getting a kid going straight up. Josh keeps getting bigger and better. He is not one of those guys whose best potential is reached in high school. He’ll develop and grow.”
Kreutz is also a wrestler. He didn’t compete his junior season because of his injured hand, but plans to return to the sport as a senior.
Illinois didn’t have a player from the state in its upcoming recruiting class until Thursday night. Kreutz hopes to see more join him in Champaign.
“That would be great to get the best players from Illinois to play for the university,” Kreutz said. “I think they can make that happen.”
Lined upIllinois welcomes back four starters on the offensive line in 2020, including center Doug Kramer. Like Kreutz, Kramer is an Illinois product, coming from Hinsdale Central.
Entering his fourth year as starting center, Kramer will be out of eligibility in 2021. Could the Illini go from one Kramer to Kreutz at center?
“I don’t know if he is going to step in for four years. But that’s certainly what they all want,” Holecek said.
No matter when Kreutz gets on the field, Holecek expects him to have success at Illinois.
“He’s an intelligent guy and that helps a ton, too,” Holecek said.
Holecek said Kreutz is “the nicest kid off the field.”
But when he lines up at center “he is the nastiest competitor,” Holecek said.
“Just like his dad, he wants to bury you,” Holecek said. “He is trying to dominate every single play.”