CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- It is a guarantee Lovie Smith will not have to introduce himself to at least one father of the Illini’s biggest targets in its 2021 recruiting class.
Smith is intensely familiar with the family of three-star offensive lineman Josh Kreutz after being his dad’s head coach in the National Football League for nine seasons in Chicago.
Josh Kreutz, who plays at Loyola Academy where his high school head coach is former Illini All-American linebacker John Holecek, got his first and currently only Power Five Conference scholarship offer from a Power Five Conference when Illinois offered the 6-foot-2, 260-pound center on Feb. 6.
Josh Kruetz, who has said to multiple news outlets that he’s conducted several Zoom video conferences this spring with members of the Illini coaching staff, currently has scholarship offers from Illinois, Western Kentucky, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Ball State. Kruetz’s recruitment is being primarily handled on the Illinois staff by offensive line coach Bob McClain.
Before being drafted by Chicago in the third round, 64th overall, of the 1998 NFL Draft, Olin Kreutz was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American selection and earned All-Pac-10 Conference first-team honors. Olin Kreutz was a six-time Pro Bowl selection at center from 2001-06 and a first-team All-Pro selection in 2006. Kruetz played in his only Super Bowl in 2006 when Smith guided the Bears to Super Bowl XLI where they lost to the Indianapolis Colts.
“If you asked me what Lovie’s gift was as a coach...no matter how bad things got, he walked in the room and he was the same guy,” Kreutz said last October on NBC Sports Chicago. “And he preached the exact same message no matter where you were in the season. Oddly, you would just slowly believe in what he was saying.”
Olin Kruetz is now a football analyst for NBC Sports Chicago and 670 WSCR The Score radio and was one of several pundits who commented on the Illini program following the 24-23 upset win last season over then-No. 6 Wisconsin.
“It was a huge win for Lovie and the one thing Lovie does well is he always believes no matter how bad things are,” Olin Kreutz said. “He believes in his system and what he’s trying to install with the kids there (at Illinois). When everybody stopped believing in them, they showed that they believed in each other.”
Holecek, who was part of a roster that included four Illini linebackers (with Dana Howard, Simeon Rice and Kevin Hardy) named to All-American selections, has won the Illinois High School Athletics Association Class 8A state championship in 2015 and 2018 at Loyola.