CHICAGO | Brandon Greer and Nick Roach have combined to move the football for four years at Mount Carmel, but will soon be adversaries in the Mid-American Conference.
Roach, from Griffith, Ind., will attend Western Michigan. Greer, a Times first-team member from Dolton who ran for 216 yards and two touchdowns in the last season's Prep Bowl behind Roach's blocking, will go to Central Michigan. They'll see each other annually in the MAC.
"I might be out there talking a little smack to him," Greer said. "It's going to be all love."
Greer and Roach were among seven Caravan athletes, six of them football players, signing with colleges Wednesday morning.
Times Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Bryant was among the signees. The inside linebacker is headed to the University of Indianapolis, a Division II school.
"I underestimated the school at first," said Bryant, spurned by Division I schools because he's only 5-foot-11. "But it's not too big, not too small. I've got a good chance to play right away if I work at it. I'm out to prove to people I can play inside linebacker."
Conversely, Roach already knows he'll be red-shirting in the fall.
"My first objective is to get bigger, faster and stronger," Roach said. "I have to get to the same level as the other guys."
Roach believes he'd never have had the chance had he not gone to Mount Carmel.
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"My education was much more accelerated than the public schools I would have attended had I not gone to Mount Carmel," Roach said.
"We tell youngsters when they come to Mount Carmel, you're going to pass a lot of other schools," coach Frank Lenti said, "but when the time comes to pick a college, do you pick it based on convenience or on what's best for you? These guys were smart enough to do that coming out of grammar school."
Said Greer, who would have attended Thornridge if Mount Carmel was not an option, "My dad tells me all the time that football only lasts so long, and education is the key. Football is the bonus."
The other commitments came from soccer midfielder Colin Marz (Illinois-Chicago), and three football players: defensive lineman Vontrell Williams (Illinois), receiver Frank Kelly (Ave Maria of Naples, Fla.) and offensive tackle Sal Arceo, who will walk on at Northern Illinois.
For Williams, the day was a joyous conclusion to an uncharted odyssey that began when his mother died of a heart attack when he was a freshman at St. Joseph in Westchester. He lived in Lakeland, Fla., for a time with his father, but eventually returned to Chicago, and finally to Mount Carmel under the watchful eye of his cousin, Jemal King, and King's wife Camille, whom Williams now calls "Mom."
"If you told me four years ago that I'd be sitting here signing for a scholarship to U of I, I'd say you were dreaming," Williams said. "It really took a lot of dedication from me and my family, particularly my cousin Jemal. The main thing was using everything as motivation."
Williams' signing keeps the pipeline from 64th and Dante to Champaign flowing. Mount Carmel has had at least one football player in the Illinois program each year but one since 1990.