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ON CAMPUS: Prairie Ridge grad Drew Nystrom new Illinois football grad assistant

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When Drew Nystrom first crossed paths with University of Illinois head football coach Tim Beckman, Nystrom was an aspiring college offensive lineman and Beckman wasn’t yet a head coach.

Nystrom, a Prairie Ridge graduate who started 34 career games at NCAA Division I Bowling Green, spent two years on the school’s scout team. Each day in practice, he went against Falcons defensive coordinator Beckman’s squad.

“I knew him as well as a freshman offensive lineman can know a defensive coordinator,” Nystrom said with a laugh.

Last summer, Nystrom worked several of Beckman’s Illinois football camps.

“I got to know him a little more then,” Nystrom said.

The two will work together again this fall when Nystrom takes over as the offensive graduate assistant for the Illini after two seasons coaching the offensive line at D-III Dubuque.

“I knew I wanted to be at the D-I level,” Nystrom said. “It’s where I played.”

Nystrom will work under offensive line coach A.J. Ricker and offensive coordinator Bill Cubit.

“I’ll throw my two cents in where it’s needed,” Nystrom said.

At Dubuque, Nystrom benefited from working with head coach Stan Zweifel and helped guide the Spartans to the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title in 2011 and a 14-7 record in two seasons.

“I was incredibly fortunate to work at Dubuque and have a lot of freedom coaching the offensive line and working with the run game,” Nystrom said. “I worked for a great head coach. He had the confidence to allow me to change a few protections and a few run schemes. My time at Dubuque was outstanding.”

Nystrom said he welcomes a chance to work with the Illini’s offensive linemen.

“There’s just something about the O-line that appeals to me,” he said. “I played it, and I know it. I get those guys. They don’t care about accolades. They show up and they work. That’s been the case for groups I’ve had everywhere.”

Nystrom said he hopes to advance his career as a future D-I coach on the offensive side of the ball first.

“I’d like to coach tight ends or offensive line to start with,” he said.

During his short time in Champaign-Urbana, Nystrom has forged a bond with Beckman and several other coaches on the staff.

“We have a great mix of guys on our staff,” he said. “We really get along well.”

Carthage achievers: A group of five local men’s soccer players from D-III Carthage College has qualified for next year’s Chicago World Cup 7 vs. 7 men’s soccer tournament.

Crystal Lake South grad Jordan Innis, who was a senior last fall for Carthage, was part of the team, along with Johnsburg grads Michael Dombrowski, who will be a junior this season, and Kevin Dombrowski, an incoming freshman. Jacobs grads Greg and Taylor Pignataro also were members of the squad, which represented Argentina. Greg Pignataro was a senior last season. Taylor Pignataro will be a junior this fall.

Carthage assistant coach Andrew Gamarra, who is of Argentinian descent, was part of the team as well.

The Argentina team won a qualifier June 29 in Chicago, defeating Poland, 5-1, in the final. In the semifinals, the Carthage athletes helped knocked off a U.S. team in a penalty-kick shootout.

Football accolades: Five local players from the NCAA Division III College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin have been chosen as members of the USA Football preseason All-America teams.

Augustana running back Eric Chandler (Cary-Grove) and North Central offensive lineman Greg Whalen (Marian Central) were named to the second team. Elmhurst tight end Vince Gabrys (Harvard) and North Central defensive tackle Josh Fick (Crystal Lake Central) and wide receiver Chad O’Kane (Richmond-Burton) were chosen for the third team.

Elletts on par: Northern Illinois University golfers Taylor Ellett and Connie Ellett helped Team Kishwaukee win the 91st annual Women’s Lincoln Highway tournament this month at Rock River Golf and Pool in Rock Falls.

The Elletts were part of a team that scored +124 in the best-against bogey tournament format over 36 holes. Connie Ellett, who will be an NIU sophomore this fall, finished second as an individual with a +28 score. Taylor Ellett, who will be a junior this fall, finished at +23.

Sterling resident Ember Schuldt, who will be a University of Illinois senior this fall, won her eighth consecutive title at the Women’s Lincoln Highway event, posting a +34 total.

• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at, check out his On Campus blog at and follow him on Twitter @BarryOnCampus.

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