Northview senior Matt Crooks signs his letter-of-intent to play football at Marian College as (back row l-r) Principal Jim Church, Boys AD Charley Jackson, Northview football coach George Gettle and Marian coach Ted Karras look on. (Front row l-r) Matt's mother Gina Crooks, Matt Crooks, father Jon Crooks and sister Tara.
As a freshman four years ago, Matt Crooks was a soccer player who began kicking a football.
Four years later, what began to take fruition when his father put a goal post at their house, has become a football scholarship to Marian College.
Crooks always had the knack for soccer, but when Northview football coach George Gettle recruited him to the football team, the rest as they say is history.
"I really liked playing soccer," commented Crooks after signing to play for Marian College and coach Ted Karras. "But it was hard to play both (soccer and football) and trying to be in so many different places. I guess I liked playing soccer, but liked kicking more."
That love for kicking showed for a senior whose ability blossomed the more he practiced and learned.
Crooks' had his father, Jon Crooks, as a kicking coach for his four years at Northview and the two really learned together.
"Matt really kind of took to it after coach Gettle recruited him from the soccer team," said Jon. "Both (wife) Gina and I have enjoyed it so much watching him play. He's work hard at it."
Even more impressive, if you ask his mom Gina, is the fact that Matt's GPA has earned him a $5,000 academic scholarship to Marian in addition to his football scholarship.
"Well, I'm lucky I married into brains," joked Jon of where Matt earned his academic knack. "(Matt) has worked hard to maintain his grades. My wife is probably prouder of the academic scholarship, but I'm pretty proud of the athletic scholarship," Jon said with a smile.
Crooks has put up some pretty impressive numbers over the course of his Northview career, sharing duties with his cousin Brock Crooks, until the 2005 season.
Matt hit three fieldgoals in the 2005 season, with a long of 37 yards. He also hit 31-of-34 extra points while averaging more than 46 yards per kickoff. During the 2004 football season, Crooks focused his efforts on fieldgoals where he hit 3-of-5 FG attempts and 30-of-34 extra points. Three seasons ago, Matt hit one of the two fieldgoals that he attempted.
At Marian, Crooks will work on both kickoff and fieldgoal duties while adjusting to the new collegiate rule dictating that a new one-inch tee must used instead of the old two-inch tees.
Karras feels that Crooks is more than up to the challenge at the collegiate level.
"Matt was a big part of the Northview program's resurgence. One of his strengths is placing the ball on kickoffs and with the change in tees this year, there will be added emphasis in accuracy on kickoffs," commented Karras.
Karras also feels that Crooks' academic excellence fits right in with the type of program that he would like to build at Marian.
"(Crooks' academics) was a big key," Karras commented. "Out of the 36 recruits that we have so far, half of them have some sort of academic scholarship and that is the type of program I wanted to create."
Matt feels that a built in redshirt year, the Marian program won't play their first game until the 2007 season -- will help him develop as a player and as a student.
"I need to work on my distance and on my accuracy," he noted. "I'll probably start kicking over the summer. Having the goalpost in my yard helps and so does the redshirt year."
While Matt prepares for his collegiate career, his parents reflected on his high school career and what it means to be able to watch him continue to play.
"When he kicked his final kick in a high school game, you really sit back and think, 'Wow that could be the last one'," said Jon Crooks sounding more like the father rather than the kicking coach. "But having the chance to watch him in college is kind of like a rebirth."
Four years ago, the goal posts rose in the backyard for soccer player Matt Crooks. Four years later, Matt Crooks, football player, continues to rise.