Dom Collado has looked to other local offensive linemen such as Trevor Keegan and Wyatt Blake for years as resources on and off the field.
The recent holiday break provided an opportunity for Collado, a Crystal Lake South senior who is enrolled at Miami of Ohio, to get in his last preparations before heading off to Oxford, Ohio, to become a RedHawk.
Collado, Keegan (Michigan), Blake (Northwestern), Jimmy Wormsley (Southern Illinois) and Tommy Atella (Carroll College) got together most days over the break from school to lift or work on agility training at Davis Speed Center in Crystal Lake. That group has trained together, off and on, for the better part of five years.
“Being able to work with them and see them again is great,” Collado said. “I ask them about how college is going. I can learn a lot from them. Trevor talked to me about how it’s a big storm and you have to get through it. It’s the next chapter in your life and you have to be mature about it.”
Collado (6-foot-4, 300 pounds) finished his graduation requirements early and can attend NCAA Division I Miami and go through spring practices. He also will stay there in the summer to work out and take classes.
Collado, Keegan and Atella played on the line together at South. Keegan (6-6, 315) is a redshirt freshman at Michigan; Atella (5-8, 235) is a sophomore at D-III Carroll, where he also plays goalie in lacrosse.
Blake (6-4, 305) is a 2018 Crystal Lake Central graduate and a redshirt sophomore at Northwestern, where he has three years of eligibility remaining.
Wormsley (6-2, 292), a 2018 Jacobs graduate, is a redshirt sophomore at SIU and has three years remaining. Blake and Wormsley became friends as sophomores in high school, working out at Davis for strength, speed and on lineman skills with Steve Spoden, now the offensive line coach at Central.
Atella, Keegan and Collado later joined in. They reunite in the summers and over college holiday breaks at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“It’s pretty cool because we share stories about what happened through the season, our experience and how things are going,” Keegan said. “We all kind of connect through football, which is nice.”
Keegan went through his workouts that Michigan’s coaching staff prescribed with trainer Kevin Brummond. The others worked with Brummond and also with speed and agility trainer Pat Wetzel, who owns Davis Speed Center.
“It’s good to see those guys; they’re great guys,” Blake said. “It’s nice to have someone at the same level as you who knows what you’re going through. There are similar things you can talk about. It’s just cool, you know?”
Blake recently learned that the Wildcats’ coaching staff wants him to switch to defensive line. He will be a tackle – at 2-I as he calls it, lining up on the inside shoulder of an offensive guard. He may get on the field quicker by changing sides.
“I want to move up the depth chart,” said Blake, who played some defensive line as a junior and senior at Central. “This is my first offseason as a D-lineman, so I need to learn a bunch of stuff. I’ve never really trained as a D-lineman before. I kind of need to know how to do that. And just fight for playing time.”
Blake said Northwestern’s coaches would like to see him at 285 to 290 pounds on the defensive line, so he will be on a diet this spring.
Wormsley, like Collado, Keegan and Blake, started in high school as a freshman. He looked forward to the workouts and stories before heading back to Carbondale.
“You talk about what’s going on in other programs and learn from them and everything,” Wormsley said. “We feed off each others’ energy and go at it in the weight room. It’s always good to see guys playing in other programs at the next level.”
The McHenry County area has become a hotbed for offensive lineman over the past 15 years. That trend seemed to take off when Marian Central had three D-I linemen – Bryan Bulaga (2007), Sean Cwynar (2008) and Cody O’Neill (2009) – on one team. Bulaga has a Super Bowl ring and is in his 10th season with the Green Bay Packers.
The linemen are like fraternity brothers, embracing the grind to make themselves better at a relatively inglorious position.
One topic of conversation was dealing with a lack of playing time, something all the young players hope will change.
“I’m hoping to compete for a starting spot,” Keegan said. “It was definitely different not playing. I’m used to always playing and being that guy. It definitely humbles you a lot, that’s for sure.”