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J. Thomas McNamara

Bret Bielema is walking the walk after he  talked the talk in his Dec. 19 introductory press conference as Lovie Smith’s successor.

    At the time Bielema said he would reach out to all of the prep football coaches in the state after the previous staff ignored them, including Lovie not making an appearance at the Illinois Football Coaches Association coaches clinic.
    As you’ll read below, new offensive and recruiting coordinator Tony Petersen is that coach.
    The Decatur Tribune recently asked Decatur and Macon County coaches if anyone from Bielema’s staff had reached out to them and they said Petersen.  The only exception is no one from Illinois has contacted LSA which is an oversight since Bielema already has spoken about the recruit from 8-man football that he recruited to Iowa when he coached there.
    Illinois offensive and recruiting coordinator Tony Petersen is the one, who has been the coach in contact with Decatur and Macon County and other central Illinois coaches.  He has been given the responsibility for recruiting central Illinois.
    Within receipt of the newspaper’s written request, multiple responses were received quickly.
    Mount Zion’s Patrick Etherton responded, “Coach Petersen from Illinois contacted me before the season and wanted to introduce himself and get to know more about Mt. Zion High School.  He seems like a good guy.  I am excited to see what the future of Illinois football holds.”
    Josh Jostes, Trojans head coach, informed, “actually a few times.”
    Central A&M’s Brent Weakly wrote, “The OC (offensive coordinator) Tony Petersen called me just before we got started.”
    Argenta-Oreana’s Michael DeMeio responded, “I was contacted by the OC Tony Petersen.  I believe he is responsible for recruiting central Illinois.”
    Michael Lee, Sangamon Valley head coach, said Tony Petersen contacted him.
    Eisenhower’s Steve Thompson replied, “Their offensive coordinator, Tony Petersen, reached out to me in February.  I felt like they were trying to live up to the promise.”
    Of the ones who responded to the newspaper’s request, LSA is the only school that said it hadn’t been.
    LSA’s Jordan Hopman is one coach, who hasn’t been contacted by Petersen, informing, “I have not been contacted, but as a former college coach I also understand you only have so much time and resources.  I don’t expected to be contacted, but hope he can bring some pride back to that program…except when they play Nebraska.”
    Petersen is going to find quality football is played here in Decatur and Macon County, guys who can play for the Fighting Illini.
    Here’s the latest indication how serious Bielema is about recruiting Illinois as he’s appointed retired Metamora football head coach Pat Ryan to his staff as director of Illinois high school relations.  Ryan coached Metamora football for 30 years.
    Ryan is one of the most decorated coaches in Illinois high school football history as he led Metamora to seven state championship games, two state titles (2007, 2009), and a 268-75 (.781) record in 30 seasons.

    He has the 14th-most wins in Illinois high school history and the 11th most of any coach at one school. Ryan was inducted to the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2016.
    “I am thrilled to be a part of what Coach Bielema is building at Illinois,” Ryan said.  “Football has been a big part of my life. The relationships I have made by being involved in this game are priceless.  I look forward to enhancing the long-lasting relationships within the state of Illinois and building new ones within the Illini football family.”
    It’s rewarding to see Bielema and his staff are walking the walk not just doing talking the talk.
    Don’t think for one moment that today’s Illinois prep football coaches aren’t watching and taking note.
    I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune where readers always find the best coverage of Decatur and Macon County prep sports.

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