While Chayce Crouch only held three scholarship offers before Illinois arrived with one, the Newark Catholic (Ohio) quarterback was set for a busy May.
Crouch said he had Mid-American Conference schools like Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Toledo and Western Michigan set to watch him throw in May along with BCS programs like Cincinnati, Duke, Indiana, North Carolina State, Penn State and Pittsburgh.
“I got a chance to watch Illinois play last year, and I’ve watched them a lot growing up,” Crouch said. “I can’t really put my finger on it, but I’ve always liked something about Illinois.”
By the time Crouch arrives on campus for the 2014 season, Reilly O’Toole, Chase Haslett, Jim Nudera and Aaron Bailey are the other quarterbacks Illinois should have on its roster, assuming there’s no turnover before Illinois opens that season against Youngstown State.
Crouch will enter his senior year at Newark Catholic with heightened expectations on a perennial football powerhouse in Ohio.
The Green Wave went 12-3 last fall before losing 28-21 to Maria Stein Marion Local in the Division VI state championship game.
Crouch completed 14 of 27 passes for 236 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the game while he also rushed for 37 yards on six carries and scored on a 5-yard run to account for all three of Newark Catholic’s touchdowns.
He nearly led Newark Catholic on a last-minute comeback. He drove the Green Wave from their own 35-yard line with 20 seconds left down to Maria Stein Marion Local’s 1-yard line, completing two 27-yard passes before a pass interference call gave Newark Catholic the ball on its opponent’s 1-yard line with no time left on the clock.
Crouch’s potential game-tying touchdown pass, however, fell incomplete.
“The state playoffs were a great experience,” Crouch said. “It was one that I had been the leader the whole year and I love leading. It’s one of my better qualities that I bring to the table. I knew I had to step my level of play up and bring it to another level.”
Crouch doesn’t just focus on football. He starts on Newark Catholic’s boys basketball team as a forward and at first base on the Green Wave’s baseball team.
“A three-sport athlete is very uncommon these days,” Crouch said. “Most people feel you have to focus on one thing to be very good at it. I personally disagree with that. I like to stay competitive. I feel that God gave me talent to play three sports, so I feel like I want to compete, and it keeps me personally competitive at my highest level.”
Crouch molds himself after a former Big Ten signal-caller who has achieved profound success with the New England Patriots: Tom Brady.
“There’s nothing about him that really doesn’t interest me,” Crouch said. “The fact that really stands out to me about Tom Brady is his mentality that no matter how much you’re losing by, there’s always an opportunity for a football game to be won. Tom Brady is one of the best winners to ever play the QB position. I feel we share the same quality.”