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Neuqua Valley's Joey Rhattigan runs through the Mt. Carmel defense during their state semi-final game at Neuqua Valley High School on Saturday, November 17, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Leaving Neuqua Valley with every signature program rushing record, Joey Rhattigan was ready to take the next step.
On Wednesday afternoon, Rhattigan received clarity on what that next step will entail by committing to Princeton.
“Really when I visited Princeton, I could feel it. I could feel it was the right fit,” he said. “Had a one-and-one meeting with the head coach (Bob Surace) and in talking to him just ensured that (it was the right fit). He expressed a serious interest in having me on his team.
“Just the overall communication with their coaches (has been solid). The (meetings with) the running backs coach (Ben Martin) and their offensive coordinator (James Perry) went well, too. The head coach was over at my house the other week. So it’s just been pretty great.”
Earning the distinction of being named the Naperville Sun’s Prep Football Player of the Year for 2012, the 6-foot, 201-pound Rhattigan ran 294 times for 2,226 yards and 33 touchdowns for a Neuqua Valley team that went 12-1 before losing to eventual Class 8A state champion Mount Carmel in a Class 8A state semifinal.
He ran for over 200 yards four times, including running for a career high and program single-game high 346 yards against Bolingbrook in the Wildcats’ Class 8A second-round win over the Raiders, while being held under 100 yards just twice.
For a Princeton team that went 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the Ivy League in 2012 while averaging 147.3 rushing yards per game, Rhattigan seemingly will be a great fit.
“I think it’s gonna be perfect for him. I do,” Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus said of the Tigers’ offense. “They run the football. They like their power-run game and Joey’s a powerful back. I think he’ll be able to step in and I think he’ll be able to help them right away. I really feel like Joey’s college ready right now.
“He’s coming from a huge school and he’s gone up against outstanding competition all year long. Certainly this is a step up for him, going to the college level. But I think Joey’s college ready right now and he’s obviously smart enough to get into Princeton, but he’s also a tremendously smart football player. So I think he’ll contribute right away.”
Following in big brother T.J.’s footsteps after T.J. eventually walked on at Penn State after graduating in 2011 in terms of playing football at the next level, Rhattigan said he knew as the football season wound down that he’d likely be matriculating to either Princeton, Harvard or Cornell.
And he’s ready to see what kind of encore he can provide to his senior season at Neuqua Valley at one of the most prestigious academic schools in the country.
“I’m definitely ready,” Rhattigan said. “Of course, I need to get to know their offense and I mean, you could always improve on speed and strength and that kind of stuff. I definitely think I’m ready. Their offense is very similar to the way Neuqua runs their offense. So I think I fit well. I feel like I fit well that I’ll be able to prove myself pretty soon.”