Daniel Santacaterina has looked up to Northern Illinois football players predating his arrival in high school as his big brother, Michael, launched his career with the Huskies.
Chances grew this week that before too long Santacaterina could look at the Huskies from a different vantage point – eye-to-eye in the huddle.
NIU became the Geneva junior quarterback’s first scholarship offer after assistant coaches watched Santacaterina throw at Burgess Field after school Wednesday.
“I’ve always kind of looked up to those guys,” Santacaterina said. “It’s been fun going to the games. I didn’t believe I could go there until just this year, I started believing maybe I could be an NIU Huskie some day. It’s just exciting. It’s kind of surreal right now that I could play there one day after watching the team throughout the last four or five years.”
Michael Santacaterina will be a fifth-year senior linebacker for the Huskies as Daniel turns his attention to his senior season at Geneva in the fall.
Santacaterina had a feeling a scholarship offer was coming soon after he and Michael Santacaterina recently met with Huskies head coach Rod Carey in DeKalb. On Wednesday, Santacaterina threw in Geneva under the watchful eyes of NIU offensive coordinator Bob Cole and assistant coach Craig Harmon.
“I threw for 15, 20 minutes, and they said they saw what they needed to see, and they sat me down and said we’ll get you on the phone with Coach Carey, and they offered,” Santacaterina said.
Santacaterina said he wasn’t especially nervous to air it out in front of the NIU coaches.
“I just went through a Rivals camp [on Sunday at Maine South] so that was kind of my practice for throwing in that kind of environment with people watching and a lot of talent there, so I got a feel of what it was going to be like,” Santacaterina said. “I’ve thrown for other schools before. If you do what you know you’re good at, everything takes care of itself, really.”
Santacaterina, who said he’s up to about 6-foot-2, 193 pounds, became Geneva’s varsity quarterback as a sophomore, but missed much of the season with a broken collarbone. He came back healthy – and productive – as a junior, guiding a prolific Vikings offense that included receiving standouts Kyle Brown and Pace Temple.
Temple also is being evaluated by NIU and others, and Santacaterina said he’d love to play college football with his classmate.
“If I could play with Pace, that’d be big,” said Santacaterina, who credited his Vikings teammates for helping raise his profile. “I mean if a team says ‘Hey, we’re offering you and Pace,’ that’s a big recruiting tool they could use because I would love to do that and he would love to do that, too. Just the chemistry we’ve had since day one, I think we become friends in sixth grade, and we’ve been brothers ever since.”
As enthused as Santacaterina is to be courted by NIU, he is open to other overtures. He plans an upcoming visit to Minnesota and will make the rounds on the summer camp circuit.
But it might take a dynamite recruiting pitch to upstage NIU, with all of its connections. Santacaterina’s one-time Geneva role model under center, Matt Williams, is a former NIU quarterback, and Santacaterina is friends with ex-Huskies star Chandler Harnish, who preceded Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch as a star for the Mid-American Conference powerhouse.
“They kind of set the standard for Huskie quarterbacks,” Santacaterina said. “If I could be part of that, I’d have some big shoes to fill.”
Santos moving on: Former Geneva boys basketball player KJ Santos is leaving Vermont Academy, where he attended prep school this year, he announced Friday. There is no plan in place yet for where Santos will attend next year, according to his father, Joe Santos.
Santos, a sweet-shooting, 6-foot-8 guard, saw time on the Vikings’ varsity late in 2012-13, his sophomore year. He reclassified as a class of 2016 recruit after heading to prep school. Santos holds Division I scholarship offers from schools such as West Virginia, Oklahoma, DePaul, Iowa, Xavier and Virginia Commonwealth.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or