This Year, Weather Doesn't Delay Signing Day for 9 L-W East Student-Athletes

Nine Griffins student-athletes signed with college teams on Wednesday. Here's what they had to say about their decisions and what they'll miss from East.

for student-athletes announcing their colleges of choice.

But weather was no problem Wednesday as parents and L-W East coaches and administrators celebrated the letters of intent signings for seven football players and two baseball players from the high school.

"I couldn't be more proud of the fact that you've earned what you've deserved," said David Brost, East's athletics director. "You've worked very hard. You've become role models for so many kids that will enter our doors at Lincoln-Way East over the next years to come."


National letters of intent are part of a voluntary program in which students agree to attend a school, and the schools agree to provide a scholarship. Signing days are held three times a year; the final day for this school year will be some time in May. 

"The term student-athlete, it always comes in because you wouldn't have the opportunities you have unless you concentrated on being students first," said East baseball coach Paul Babcock.

"We pay attention to what you guys are doing," he added. "It's not just about the success you have on the field, it's what type of character you have."

Here's a closer look at the student-athletes who were on hand at Wednesday's event.


Kevin Bayer, Mokena

College: University of North Dakota, Grand Forks
Parents: Al and Kim Bayer
Expected major: Criminal justice
High school sports honors: All-Area first team All Conference; Defensive Player of the Year.

What went into your decision to pick North Dakota? "I just want to play at the highest caliber I can ... and after my visit, it was the best place for me. ... The community is pretty much focused around the football team because they don't have a professional team there and just like that community thing, you're pretty much a professional player there. You have a lot of support from the community."

What did it feel like when you made your decision? "It was relieving. I felt bad when I had to call the other coaches to let them know I chose a different school. ... But relieving, and I hope I picked the right school."

What will you miss the most when you leave L-W East? "Everyone says you'll be homesick, but I hope I'm not homesick. Of course, I'm going to miss my friends, and I'll be farther away from my family. ... I guess I have to make the sacrifice for school. But Lincoln-Way was awesome for me. ... The teachers here were amazing. They supported us."

Alex Hern, Mokena

College: Drake University, Des Moines
Parents: Robert and Patti Hern
Expected major: Business
Other school activities: Baseball and student council
High school sports honors: Second team All Conference; Effort Player of the Year
Academic honors: Honor roll and Scholar Athlete Award

What football coach Rob Zvonar had to say: "The Drake coaching staff is very excited to get a player and person of Al's caliber as they look to him to make an immediate impact."


Joel Magrum, Mokena

College: Indiana State University, Terre Haute
Parents: Greg and Kari Magrum
Expected major: Marketing
Other school activities: Basketball
High school sports honors: All-Conference and All-Area teams
Academic honors: High honor roll

What football coach Rob Zvonar had to say: "I know coach (Trent) Miles at Indiana State is very impressed with Joel's height, athleticism, toughness and firmly believes he'll be an outstanding player for the Sycamores."

Jason "J.J." Robertson, Mokena

College: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Parents: Jason Robertson and Lilly Gibson Chapman
Expected major: Finance, business management
Other school activities: Baseball, track and basketball
High school sports honors: Two years on All Conference and All Area teams, as well as being named Best Offensive Player
Other honors: First L-W East player to receive a football scholarship to U of I and the second football to go to a Big Ten school.  

What did you like about the school? "One thing I noticed being down there was family. They care about family, to be surrounded by good people. ... It's a great atmosphere and close to home. It's a great situation to be in."

Why's family important? "Family's important because they're the ones that helped me make this decision. ... The more support you have around you, the more successful you will be."

What are you excited about the most when it comes to going to U of I? "Coming in and playing my freshman year. I've been working my butt off ever since I got that (scholarship) offer."

Are you preparing yet for your freshman year? "Yeah, academics, believe it or not. A lot of seniors they take their second semester (of high school) off. I'm actually hitting it harder than I've ever hit it in my four years. ... I'm definitely hitting the books every night to put me in a better position down at the University of Illinois."

Matt Solner, Mokena

College: Iowa Western Community College, Council Bluffs
Parents: Shirley and Mark Solner
Expected major: Criminal justice
Other school activities: Rugby
High school sports honors: First team All Conference, All Area and All State. Conference Defensive MVP and team captain

What football coach Rob Zvonar had to say: "Matt is a high-level Division I caliber player who'll be attending one of the top community colleges in the nation. ... Coaches at Iowa West will have no doubt that Matt could become one of those players to help them win a national championship."

Tyler Starke, Frankfort

College: Robert Morris University, Chicago
Parents: Rick and Margie Starke
Expected major: Athletic training or sports medicine
Other school activities: Fellowship of Christian Athletes, track, rugby, coach for Lincolnway Special Recreation Association
High school sports honors: Two-time All Conference team

What went into your decision? "Going down there for my first visit, everything just felt right about it, the teachers and everything. I've got a few friends going there. Everything just fell in place. ... Academically, they're growing a lot more ... All the professors seem to be going out of their way to help students."

What excites you the most? "I'm just looking for new competition. I'm gonig to have to fight for my position so that's something new. At the same time, competition only makes you better."

Have you started to get ready yet? "Yeah, in some sense. I'm meeting with other recruits and players at the school and just trying to get myself adjusted downtown."

What do you like about a downtown school? "Wherever you go, you can't have a boring night in Chicago. You go there, there are sights on top of sights there, you're always looking up at new things and everything is so attractive down there."

Blake Winkler, Frankfort

College: Illinois State University, Bloomington
Parents: Jade and Yvonne Winkler
Expected major: Business and physics
Other school activities: Peer Helper, National Honor Society, Best Buddies, Pi Sigma Pi, Mu Alpha Theta
High school sports honors: Offensive MVP; first team All Conference; SouthWest Suburban Conference Offensive MVP; Southland Patch Player of the Year; IHSA All State; ESPN Chicago All Area; Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year
Academic honors: High honor roll and Academic All State

What went into your decision? "I wanted to find the best place where I would fit in academically and for football also, and after weighing all my options I decided that ISU was the place for me where I could excel as a student on and off the field. ... It's just a great feeling to be part of a great program."

What's exciting about the ISU program? "(It's) an on-the-rise coaching staff and I'm just so excited to work with all of their coaches. And the position that I'm going to be in where I'm going to be able to learn from a great quarterback that they have this year and all the guys that are there, the transition from being a high school quarterback to being a college quarterback is going to be a huge jump and I'm really excited to learn it all before I jump into a new system."

What else did you like about the school? "I liked a lot of the majors that I'm going to be participating in. I'm going to be majoring in business with a possible double major in physics. Their business program is one of the top in the nation. ... They don't offer an engineering major, but physics is right there."

What will you miss? "It's kind of (sad) that you're all going your separate ways but it's just the relationships and the people you meet at East is just unbelievable."

What did it feel like when you made your decision? "It was just an awesome feeling. It was a ton of weight off my shoulders. To feel really confident about my decision. I haven't looked back on it ever since."


Brandon Bollman, Frankfort

College: Augustana College, Rock Island, Ill.
Parents: Michelle and Donald Bollman
Expected major: Undecided
Other school activities:
High school sports honors: Lowest earned-run average as a sophomore and junior; varsity winning pitcher in L-W East's first sectional baseball championship; was pulled up sophomore year to play varsity football in playoffs

What went into your decision? "I really liked the program and the coaches and I feel like it's a good fit for me. And it's a really good academic school where you can get a good education."

What excites you most about the decision? "I just want to be on a winning team and they win."

What else did you like about the school? "It's really nice. It's kind of like a small Notre Dame."

Mark Chemello, Frankfort

College: St. Joseph College, Rensselaer, Ind.
Parents: Paul and Christy Chemello
Expected major: Accounting
Other school activities: Mu Alpha Theta
High school sports honors: All-Conference team; holds school record in single season wins with a 9-1 record.
Academic honors: Honor roll every semester

What went into your decision to pick St. Joseph College? "The biggest thing is I love the coaching staff there, they seemed completely respectable, and I liked the players there on the team and it's a great program to be a part of."

What do you like most about the school? "What I like most is it's the perfect distance away, and if I ever want to come home I have the chance, and if I just want to stay I can stay."

What will you miss the most when you leave L-W East? "I have a perfect (life) right now it seems like. That's one thing I don't want to change. Everything about it, school, school work, baseball friends. I can't complain."

Michael Sewall February 02, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Way to go, Joel. Both my brothers are on the Sycamores (one will be a soph next year) so I'll be seeing you in Terre Haute!
Ron Kremer February 02, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Congrats to all the Griffin signees. I'm sure Mr. Winkler is looking forward to facing Mr. Sewall's brothers. Redbirds vs. Sycamores. Should be fun!


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