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Guerin Prep senior Kristof Ifkovits was pretty excited as he prepared for his official visit to Eastern Illinois on Jan. 18.
The 6-foot-4, 306-pound lineman had been heavily recruited by EIU offensive line coach Brian Callahan and he was expecting an offer from the Panthers, who play in the D-I Football Championship Subdivision.
Then the unpredictable happened. Callahan accepted a job to be the tight ends coach at Western Michigan, a school that plays with the big boys in D-I Football Bowl Subdivision.
Ifkovits was shocked and thought his dream of playing college football may have just flown out the window.
“There goes everything I worked for,” Ifkovits said he thought. “I thought that I was going to go Eastern. They invited me to a football game (in the fall) and I got to see them win conference. I talked to all the coaches. I was ready for my visit and then they moved my visit back.”
Ifkovits’ high school coach at Guerin, Tony Pecoraro, didn’t sugarcoat what Callahan’s leaving might mean.
“Coach said, ‘This could be really good or really bad,’ ” Ifkovits said. “But he told me not to look at it as a bad thing yet. He said he’d contact him when (Callahan) gets to Western Michigan.”
It turned out this story has a happy ending. Callahan got in touch with Ifkovits three days later. Callahan was interested in recruiting Ifkovits to play defensive tackle for Western Michigan. The senior took his official visit the following week.
Ifkovits enjoyed the visit but didn’t know if he would get an offer from Western Michigan until first-year head coach P.J. Fleck called him on Feb. 3, the day before National Signing Day, and offered.
“I was ecstatic,” said Ifkovits, who lives on the northwest side of Chicago. “The head coach offered to me and I immediately said yes. I didn’t stutter. I said yes right away.
“I was just so happy. I’d be the first player in Guerin Prep history to go (D-I FBS). Coach Callahan told me that I was the only player he was recruiting for Eastern that he thought could play at a higher level. I was really happy about that.”
Ifkovits, whose dad is Austrian and mom Polish and German, has an unlikely football story, and not just because of his interesting recruiting journey.
When Holy Cross closed due to low enrollment in 2004, Mother Guerin, which was right next door, started accepting boys and changed its name to Guerin Prep.
The school began a football program and last season counted 25 players on the varsity. Despite that, the Gators are considered Class 5A because of the IHSA multiplier for schools with no boundaries.
“What this means to our program is gigantic,” Pecoraro said.