CRYSTAL LAKE – Steve Spoden saw it coming years ago.
When Crystal Lake Central offensive lineman Wyatt Blake was 11, Spoden coached him with the Crystal Lake Raiders youth football program. Spoden, Central’s current offensive line coach, told Blake’s parents he thought Wyatt would play Division I football.
Spoden said the Blakes “looked at me like I had three heads.”
A few years and 14 scholarship offers later, Spoden’s prophecy is coming true. Central’s junior lineman committed to play football at Northwestern for coach Pat Fitzgerald on Friday in front of friends, family and teammates at the Central library.
Three other hats lay on the table: Minnesota, Missouri and Virginia. In the end, it was the black and purple Northwestern visor atop his head, to go along with a green Northwestern T-shirt in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
“Coach Fitz told me to get this one,” Blake said of the shamrock-laden Wildcats shirt. “And I can’t upset the big man.”
Blake said he has known for three weeks Northwestern was his choice. In addition to his top four choices, he also had scholarship offers from Boston College, Central Michigan, Duke, Indiana, Kansas State, New Mexico, Northern Illinois, Syracuse, Toledo and Vanderbilt.
He originally planned to announce his decision May 15, his mother’s birthday. But after all the visits to campuses and talks with coaches, he had his mind made up.
“There was nothing out there that was better for me than Northwestern,” Blake said. “I just was like, ‘What am I waiting for?’ ”
The 6-foot-3 lineman is listed as a three-star offensive lineman by Scout.com and a four-star lineman by 247sports.com. 247sports’ composite ranking places him as the sixth-best recruit in the state of Illinois and 34th-best offensive tackle in the country.
Last football season, he weighed more than 300 pounds but cut down to 285 during wrestling season. He said Northwestern coaches want him to stay around 285.
The recruiting process started for him as a freshman when MaxPreps named him to its 2014 freshman All-America team. He received his first scholarship offer as a sophomore.
In 2016, he was one bright spot in a difficult 2-7 season for Central.
Tigers coach Jon McLaughlin went with Blake to a Northwestern bowl practice in December, and after that visit McLaughlin had a hunch Northwestern was going to be the one.
“Knowing his family and how close and tight they are, the education he’s going to get at Northwestern, it seemed like a natural fit,” McLaughlin said. “It seemed like every other week we were having someone from Northwestern coming through to keep in touch with him.”
Blake said he hasn’t decided what he will major in yet. He becomes Northwestern’s seventh commitment in the class of 2018. The Wildcats are coming off back-to-back winning seasons, including a win in the Pinstripe Bowl in December.
Spoden and McLaughlin both thought Blake was a good fit for Northwestern’s style of play. Blake said he liked the energy from Fitzgerald.
“He’s pretty vibrant,” Blake said. “He’s pretty outgoing and he’s really involved in practice. He’s a straight shooter. I trust him.”
For now, however, the focus can turn toward his senior season at Central.
“I’m just happy to be done,” Blake said. “It’s a really good feeling. I was a little nervous before, but the weight’s off my chest.”