CHICAGO - Saint Xavier University football coach Mike Feminis had trouble containing his excitement when he recently announced the signing of three high-profile recruits out of Joliet Catholic Academy (JCA). The trio includes running back Mike Ivlow (5-10, 195 lbs.) and offensive linemen Justin Hunter (6-2, 300 lbs.) and Jalen Hansel (6-3, 300 lbs.). All three were part of a Hilltoppers squad that finished 10-2 overall this past season under the direction of long-time coach Dan Sharp. Joliet Catholic fell, 22-21, in the quarterfinals of the 5A state playoffs to state runner-up Montini Catholic.
"I feel like I went to the Kentucky Derby and just hit the Trifecta," said Feminis. "All three of these kids received full-scholarship offers from NCAA I-AA and D-II programs and turned them down to come to SXU. But they all told me the same thing. They wanted to go to a good school together, preferably close to home and play in a program where they knew they would have a chance to win a National Championship. I think that turned the tide our way even more so than the desire to play Division I."
Ivlow was named the 2013 East Suburban Catholic Conference Player of the Year and to a number of all-state teams, including the Illinois Football Coaches Association (IFCA) 5A All-State Team and the 2013 EDGYTIM.com Class 5A-8A All-State Team. He set a single season rushing record at JCA with 2,603 yards and scored 32 touchdowns in 2013. The 2013 Joliet Herald News' 2013 Offensive Player of the Year finished with 244 yards on the ground off 36 carries and three touchdowns in the quarterfinals loss to Montini Catholic. Hunter and Hansel are both well decorated players as well.
"Michael Ivlow is a special player and a special young man," continued Feminis. "I've never seen a kid transform his body and improve his overall level of quickness, speed and athleticism from his junior year to his senior year like Michael. His stats and accomplishments speak for themselves, but he's got an unbelievable heart and will to succeed. The best thing about Michael is that he is so humble and gives all the credit for his success to his offensive linemen and teammates. With the graduation of Nick Pesek
, we're expecting Michael to come in and compete right away."
Hunter was named the 2013 Most Valuable Offensive Lineman in the East Suburban Catholic Conference as well as an honorable mention on the 2013 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) 5A Coaches' All-State Team. He was also a special mention on the Chicago Sun Times All-Area Team and a first team honoree on the Joliet Herald News All-Area Team this fall. Hansel is a two-time East Suburban Catholic Conference all-conference selection (2012 & 2013) and was also a first team selection on the 2013 Joliet Herald News All-Area Team.
"Getting Justin and Jalen was a perfect storm," said Feminis. "I played college ball and was a good buddy of Justin's dad (Darrin) and I knew Justin's mom from all of us going to St. Francis (Ill.) at the same time. When I met Justin, I was the happiest guy in the world that he was only 6'1 or 6'2, because if he was 6'4, I honestly believe the major D-1's would have been all over him. And then I find out that the huge kid who plays next to him (Hansel) is his best friend and they want to go to the same school.
"Jalen had already received a full scholarship offer to I-AA North Dakota going into his senior year and there's no doubt if he was an inch or two taller he'd be going big-time too," continued Feminis. "These two are absolute road-graters. They're huge, have great feet and both play with a mean streak. They just bury guys and like Michael, Justin and Jalen are quality, quality young men. I can't wait to get all of them here in August!"