All-State Player of the Year: Reilly O'Toole
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He's baaaaack. For the weekend.
Starting in 2011, Reilly O'Toole plans a longer stay in Champaign-Urbana. Like four or five years.
The Wheaton Warrenville South quarterback will look for his second consecutive state title Saturday (4 p.m.) against Lake Zurich. Soon, he'll start playing guard for the Tigers' basketball team.
In early February, he'll sign on the dotted line with Illinois. O'Toole joins Ron Zook's team in the summer.
O'Toole is the latest in a long line of greats from Wheaton. On the field and off. Red Grange played there. Bob Woodward learned how to write there. John Belushi and Jim Belushi were funny there. Edwin Hubble spaced out there.
Twelve years after Jon Beutjer set touchdown passing records for the Tigers, O'Toole joins him as a News-Gazette All-State Player of the Year.
"All the personal awards, they are team awards as well," O'Toole said. "None of that would happen without Titus Davis, without Travis Kern and Matt Rogers and all six offensive linemen and all the receivers. And the defense, too."
With a game to go, O'Toole's numbers are staggering. He has completed 172 of 229 passes (75 percent) for 3,005 yards and 40 touchdowns. With two interceptions. What happened on those?
Plug O'Toole's numbers into the NFL passer rating formula and he would be at 152.3. Michael Vick leads the league at 108.7. Put O'Toole's year into the college formula and he has a 240.3 passing- efficiency rating. Boise State's Kellen Moore leads the Football Bowl Subdivision at 188.8.
He's beyond the charts.
But he does more than just pass. He runs. He punts. Not like Nathan Scheelhaase and Anthony Santella, but well enough to get the job done.
He's gained 393 yards on 70 carries, six going for touchdowns. Forget to account for him as a runner and O'Toole will make you regret it.
Of course, the first concern is the arm. One that has all the throws. He can go deep. He can hit the sideline route. He can lead his receivers across the middle.
If the play requires a soft toss instead of a bullet, O'Toole will get it there.
"The concept of being a team player is the first thing I think about with Reilly," Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch said. "He's figured it out."
Muhitch said O'Toole's basketball skills play a part in his football ability.
"On a basketball court, he disperses the ball," Muhitch said. "On the football field, I'm proud of the fact that we have six receivers who have almost identical numbers. That allows us to be more multiple and harder to guard. You've got to prepare for all the aspects. It's a totally different concept."
O'Toole doesn't worry about 300-yard games. Or throwing the ball 30 times. In the first 13 games, he is averaging 18 attempts.
His completion percentage is the best in school history. It makes Muhitch's job easier knowing the quarterback is going to finish what he calls.
When Beutjer was a Tiger, he was most of the offense. O'Toole is asked to delegate more, adding to the flexibility of the offense.
O'Toole doesn't crave the headlines. He's more "we" than "me." That's a big reason he picked Illinois. Other schools told him he would be "the man." O'Toole wants to be part of the offense. Wants to share. Wants to win.
Former defensive coordinator Muhitch likes a quarterback who wants to keep moving the chains. If the Tigers take their time moving up and down the field, that's good for the defense. Long drives are good.
"The quarterback understands that system," Muhitch said. "He lives within it, and he's accepting of it. That's why I call him the consummate team player."
The former defensive coordinator also likes a guy who hangs onto the ball. Nothing thrills him more than a busy quarterback who has two interceptions.
"He is the best caretaker of the football I have ever coached," Muhitch said. "He's better than Jon (Beutjer) statistically. Jon threw more touchdowns. But Jon threw more interceptions. It's not that interceptions can't happen. But Reilly is so careful with the football."
There's a little Peyton Manning in O'Toole. And that puts a smile on Muhitch's face.
The coach encourages O'Toole to adapt to the defense and change the play. At times, he even tells O'Toole to call the plays on his own. For a series. Hurry-up style. That will help him in college.
The consummate team player did a good job of not letting college become a distraction. He made a commitment to Illinois before the season. He didn't want to worry about scouts in the stands and visits to different campuses.
"I'm 100 percent to Illinois," O'Toole said. "I'm just really looking forward to signing and getting it all over with. It's been a really stressful process. I'm glad I got my decision out of the way before the season.
"I know I'll be happy. I really like the coaches and the school. I know I'll get a good education there."
As he piled up numbers during his senior season, rumors started flying that O'Toole was reconsidering his college choice.
Didn't happen, Muhitch said.
"He said, 'Because they've been true to me, I'm going to be true to them,' " Muhitch said.
Muhitch was with O'Toole when he made the Illinois commitment. On the ride to Champaign-Urbana, a Minnesota coach called to say they had picked a different quarterback.
After a good day at Illinois, O'Toole's dad Mike told Muhitch he favored the Illini.
"He goes, 'These guys are straight up with us,' " Muhitch said.
The hardest part for O'Toole was telling the other college coaches he wouldn't play for their schools.
"I don't like letting people down," O'Toole said.
In the sprawling halls of Wheaton Warrenville South, O'Toole is far from the BMOC. Sure, most everybody knows who he is. But the head still easily fits under the doorway.
"If there's going to be a student who assumes the face of our school this year, I'm glad it's a young man like Reilly," Wheaton Warrenville South Principal Dave Claypool said. "He is one of the most affable students I've had the opportunity to meet. When he walks into the room he always has that great smile on his face.
"I admire someone who has received the kind of notoriety he has received this year and has survived that kind of pressure and expectations, and still carries himself as humbly as anybody in our school. He's a pretty special young man."
Watch him in the commons area before school or during the day and he's a regular guy. Claypool said he's a great role model.
There are reminders everywhere about the school's traditions. There's a giant stuffed tiger near the school office. Orange and black dominates the halls. And there are enough trophies in the cases for 10 schools.
O'Toole is adding to the legacy. In his own, quiet way.
Claypool, who grew up an Illinois fan, is happy to see O'Toole on his way to C-U.
"I like wherever Reilly likes," Claypool said. "I'm glad to know he's going to stay in the state and hopefully lead Illinois to something great."
Football keeps the low-key O'Toole active during the season. Even at school. He spends the final hour of the day in study hall with Muhitch. The coach calls it "Quarterback U." O'Toole watches film and discusses the game plan with the coach.
And he takes care of his classwork, with a high grade-point average at a competitive school.
O'Toole's teammates have his back. If you don't believe it, check out the video. If you can find it.
During the summer, O'Toole, his offensive linemen and running backs filmed a video to the Paul Simon song "You Can Call Me Al."
In the video, O'Toole faces dangerous situations. Each time, his teammates get in the way and lead him to safety.
"His teammates love him dearly," Claypool said.
O'Toole could have left at the semester and got a jump-start on his college career. Resisting a trend, O'Toole decided to come back for his second semester. He wants to play basketball and enjoy his final months with friends.
"He's a kid who cares about other kids," Tigers basketball coach and athletic director Mike Healy said. "In any sport, he makes your team better. When he's on the floor, there's a difference in how we play.
"I don't think I've coached a kid who has an athletic IQ like he does. He knows things before you teach him."
Muhitch hasn't coached a player with more superstitions. O'Toole has a routine. A serious routine.
After school on game day, O'Toole and two friends eat pasta, then go to the quarterback's house to play Madden on Xbox 360. One game. O'Toole is always the Titans, and defensive back Jack Machalek is the Bears. Running back Matt Rogers sleeps on the couch while they play.
"I've only lost once," O'Toole said. "After that, I drive them home. I always go the same way."
He puts his uniform on the same way every week. He starts on the lower body. When he's dressed, he walks down the stairs and takes a vitamin drink. He grabs an orange Gatorade and drives to school. The spots are numbered and he tries to take No. 5 (his uniform number).
"A couple of times, I've parked in spot 6 and spot 7," O'Toole said.
The youngest of four kids, O'Toole remembers being able to throw the ball well in second grade.
He was usually the quarterback. Except the year he played offensive line and linebacker. What were those coaches thinking?
Quarterback suits him. He can lead.
"I like having a ball in my hands," O'Toole said. "I like the pressure and all the things that come with it."
He isn't following the family college tradition. Everybody else went to Kansas. His brother, Reagan, and sister, Molly, are seniors in Lawrence. His other sister, Maggie, is a sophomore at Bill Self's school. The family lived in Kansas until Reilly was 7.
"Kansas didn't really get hard core in my recruiting process," O'Toole said. "Illinois is a great fit for me."
He'll be here this weekend. And back again in the summer. To stay.