CRYSTAL LAKE – There were legitimate reasons why Trevor Keegan took plenty of time in making his decision on whose college football scholarship he would accept.
First, about 30 NCAA Division I schools over the past two years made offers to the hulking Crystal Lake South offensive lineman, many of which were among the nation’s top programs. Last summer, he pared the list to six finalists. Recently, he cut that in half.
Amanda Keegan, Trevor’s mother, said even as of Thursday, one day before he was set to make his announcement, he was not 100 percent sure whether it would be Michigan, Georgia or Penn State.
“He adored Penn State,” she said. “He adored Georgia. He really did.”
After a nine-minute video of Keegan’s career highlights, from when he, as a youngster a head taller than teammates, carried the ball in flag football, to this season, when he ran back a punt for a touchdown, Keegan made his announcement.
After thanking his family, coaches from all levels and teammates, Keegan, his parents (Amanda and Mike) and his sister Taylor all rose from their chairs on the stage in South’s auditorium, unzipped their jackets and revealed Michigan shirts to the cheers of about 200 in attendance.
Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive line coach Ed Warriner got their man.
“It came down to the wire, that’s for sure,” said Keegan, a 6-foot-6, 310-pound offensive tackle who will sign his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday. “It’s the rest of my life. I really took everything into account. I went through everything – family, academics, football, the campus – just everything, and put it together, and Michigan was the one.”
Keegan had offers from all four College Football Playoff schools from last season (Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Oklahoma). Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State made his list of six finalists.
Amanda Keegan said the family made a list of what they liked about each school they visited. Harbaugh, Georgia coach Kirby Smart and Penn State coach James Franklin all visited the Keegans’ home in the last two weeks and went out for dinner.
“It’s been an extraordinary, amazing adventure,” Amanda Keegan said. “Every coach we encountered has been amazing. Trevor struggled with his last three because he really loved the three of them.
“In the beginning it was: Who’s winning? Who has the better team? Who has the better stadium? Those things don’t necessarily matter. Who’s going to be your teammates? Who can you mesh with better on the field? Who’s going to be your O-line coach? Who’s going to be your head coach?”
Trevor Keegan told only his family and Harbaugh about his decision Thursday. Warriner got the news via a live Twitter feed from the event Friday.
Michigan was a school many close to Keegan thought he might land since he has family in Livonia, Michigan, 14 miles from Ann Arbor. That is where Amanda grew up, and her parents, Jim and Judy Orlowski, live there. There also are aunts and uncles in the area.
Mike Keegan teared up when it was his turn to talk to the crowd. He remembered when Trevor was moved up to heavyweights with the Crystal Lake Raiders because of his size, and he took some lumps but got better because of it. Then, at South, he became the Gators’ first freshman to play on varsity and wound up starting 39 games.
Keegan received his first offer from Northwestern after his freshman year.
“Coach (Chuck) Ahsmann called me and said, ‘Northwestern just offered. This is going to start a tidal wave,’ ” South coach Rob Fontana said. “I don’t know how he did it and stayed so even keel about it.”
No area player ever received the attention and number of big-time offers Keegan got. Keegan was twice an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 6A All-Stater and twice a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team selection. The Gators reached the playoffs in his freshman and senior seasons.
Keegan thought long and hard about all the schools before finally choosing Michigan on Thursday.
“It’s so hard to turn down a school that’s offering you a full scholarship to come play,” Keegan said. “The hardest part is saying ‘no.’ I thank all the schools for offering me to play there. It was such a hard decision. Coming down to it and making the decision, I feel so much better.”