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NIU

Downers Grove North's Cassens one of 14 to sign with NIU Wednesday

Downers Grove North quarterback Drew Cassens keeps the ball during a game against Addison Trail at home on Sept. 6, 2019. — Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com
Downers Grove North quarterback Drew Cassens keeps the ball during a game against Addison Trail at home on Sept. 6, 2019. — Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com

Downers Grove North senior Drew Cassens experienced a wide range of emotions during his recruiting process.

As a two-way starter at quarterback and safety, Cassens showed he is a multi-skilled athlete capable of performing at a high level at demanding positions.

Cassens’ preferred position is quarterback. He capped a solid career by earning West Suburban Silver MVP honors as a senior, running for 1,513 yards and 18 touchdowns to go with 620 passing yards and four touchdowns.

Cassens said he originally was recruited by Northern Illinois as a linebacker, but that changed in the last few weeks. Wednesday, he joined 13 other future Huskies in singing with the program.

“The [NIU] coaches texted me on playing quarterback,” Cassens said. “It was definitely a shock at first. They asked me my thoughts on playing quarterback. After hearing them say that to me, it truly meant that they weren’t just looking at me for one spot, but two spots. It made me feel valued. My high school coach followed up with them. They wanted a runner. I started thinking I can truly have a shot.”

That was the final indicator for Cassens. He committed to Northern Illinois on Friday as a preferred walk-on.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Cassens led the Trojans to a memorable 2019 season. Downers North defeated Maine West 35-14 in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs.

“I have been talking with their coaches for a couple of months,” Cassens said. “They came on pretty hard. They truly showed they want me on their team and that I can make a difference. They said they will take me as a quarterback first. If it does not fit or work out, I can get a chance to play [on defense].”

Cassens said he also was considering Valparaiso, but was intrigued by the possibility of playing for the Huskies and competing in the Mid-American Conference.

“They’ve had a lot of success, plus people have walked on and earned a scholarship,” he said. “It means a lot to me to [commit]. After my junior season, that’s when I realized this is something I want to do. I knew I had to put in the work. I truly started working out at a high level in the winter of eighth grade [for sports]. All of that work from that time up until now paid off. That’s pretty cool.”

Joining Cassens from the state of Illinois were Jalon Redmond (RB/LB, DeKalb), Manny Dominguez (Safety, Sycamore ), Anthony Beacom (Kicker, Lake Park), Jaden Dolphin (Safety, Maine West), Billy Dozier (WR, Lincoln-Way West), and Patrick Hoffman (Safety, Neuqua Valley).

Also signing Wednesday were Woodly Appolon (Safety, Montreal, Quebec, Canada), Gre DeLuca (Safety, Boonton Township, NJ), Andrew Haidet (QB, Houston Baptist, Plano Texas), Connor Leffler (WR, Germantown, WI.), Matt Schooley (OL, Wisconsin Rapids, WI.), Joe Sikma (WR, Waukesha, WI.), Seth Thompson (OL, Eden Prairie, Minn), CJ Brown (S, Canton, MI.).

Kaleb Carter contributed to this story.

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