Crystal Lake South offensive lineman Dominic Collado received a memorable gift on his 16th birthday March 27 – his first NCAA Division I scholarship offer.
Central Michigan was the first school to offer Collado, who now is a 6-foot-3, 280-pound junior. Since then, fellow Mid-American Conference schools Kent State, Miami (Ohio) and Western Michigan have made offers, as has South Dakota State.
In the next few months, the recruiting process only will intensify for Collado, who is the second Gators player to play varsity football as a freshman. He joins Trevor Keegan, a senior lineman who committed to Michigan in December.
“[Recruiting] has ups and downs,” Collado said. “It’s been going well. I’m going to some Junior Days and having schools come through our school. I’m starting to go to some camps that will give me some exposure.”
Gators coach Rob Fontana said whatever school lands Collado will get a player who thrives on hard work. College coaches have stopped by South this winter to talk with Fontana, who often takes them to South’s wrestling practices so they can see Collado in action.
“Most schools want to see what he’s doing, see him move around,” Fontana said. “A lot of them like that he’s wrestling. They can see him work out a little bit. What they’re going to get with Dom is an extremely hard worker, a kid who refuses to be outworked, no matter what he’s doing, and a super-competitive kid that doesn’t like to lose.”
Collado will hear more in the next couple of weeks, then the NCAA has a short dead period from Feb. 4 to 7 (no in-person contact allowed), followed by a quiet period from Feb. 8 through April 14 (no off-campus contact or viewing). An evaluation period then follows from April 15 through May 31.
Collado lost about 20 pounds for wrestling and plans to stay around 280.
“I feel a lot better; I can move a lot quicker now,” Collado said. “My 40 time’s gone down. I’ve been able to do different gymnastics things like cartwheels in wrestling. I feel really good at this weight. A lot of schools like that I’ve slimmed down. They like my athleticism in wrestling season. They want me to stay down and keep that.”
Collado is considering schools for business, architecture or sports management and likes that the MAC schools are relatively close to home. He plans on more camps this spring and a few in June.
Fontana said Big Ten Conference schools such as Illinois, Northwestern and Purdue also have shown interest. Collado has been on those campuses for camps and unofficial visits. Larger offers could be forthcoming for Collado, who was a Northwest Herald All-Area second-team selection for the Gators, who were 6-5 and lost to Niles Notre Dame in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Collado came in a year behind Keegan and played beside him for three seasons. He learned from Keegan, who just completed an extensive recruitment process. Keegan (6-6, 310) wound up with close to 30 D-I offers from many of the top College Football Playoff schools.
“Trevor said when I get my first Power Five [offer], that’s when they’ll flood in,” Collado said.