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Meet the future.
His name is Sebastian Cheeks.
He has played four varsity high school games as a linebacker at Evanston High, and won't play another until spring when Illinois resumes prep sports.
He won't be a collegian until 2023. He is a hope for someone's future, including his own.
Want a sure future bet in a business where there are none? He's the most likely kid on Chicago's North Shore to be a college star.
The programs that must bet they can uncover gems in their childhood all have said they want him. He's the Golden Child.
Oh, by the way, it's Sebastian. Not Seb.
Northwestern wants him. Notre Dame added itself last month to a list of suitors that already included Michigan, Wisconsin, Boston College, Iowa State, Maryland and Syracuse among others.
Illini recruiters are apparently in a coma. Illinois fans can hope for their return to consciousness.
You can already peer over the hill and see that titanic neighborhood struggle. If Notre Dame or hometown Northwestern beats out the other for him, the loser will be depressed. The only way it would worse for the Irish is if long-hated Michigan wins the battle.
Landing him might mean a program's defense would be settled for a full recruiting cycle. Every coach is looking for core difference-makers. Cheeks appears to be that sort.
Though he's barely put into a cameo appearance so far, the talent raters at 247Sports rate him a 4-star prospect and the 11th-best outside linebacker in the country. It's also possible he could become a premier running back because he creates havoc around the ball. We'll see.
Cheeks already was wooed by the Irish when he was a freshman and had not played a single down on the varsity. Reputations rise fast in the recruiting business. So Notre Dame and Cheeks are developing what they call a "relationship" in recruiting vernacular.
As of this summer, Cheeks is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound rocket who plays everywhere on defense. He is a heat-seeking missile, and ran back two interceptions for touchdowns in one of his first games.
Fast. Agile. Hostile. And smart.
He has the prototype body muscle configuration that projects into 6-foot-3, 235 pounds.
As Evanston coach Mike Burzawa told the trackers at Irish Sports Daily, Cheeks was a special case even as he turned into a teen.
"It was kind of amazing seeing him in eighth grade coming into Evanston. He looked like a man when he was coming into high school physically," Burzawa said. "He does an outstanding job in the classroom, in the hallways. He's an awesome kid. He's respectful. He cares about his teammates. He's a deep thinker and thinks things through. He really wants to get an understanding."
And more to the point, he is a destroyer on the field.
Mark his name as you would have Butkus when he was 15. And whatever you do, don't call him "Seb."
David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. His most recent piece for us was Thom Brennaman's Heart. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.
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