High school football: Simeon’s Malik Elzy commits to Illinois


Simeon’s Malik Elzy (8) picks up yards after catching a screen pass.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Simeon senior Malik Elzy is heading to Champaign.

Prairie Ridge’s Tyler Vasey, the Sun-Times Player of the Year, was the top rusher in the country. Blainey Dowling quarterbacked Mount Carmel to an undefeated season and the Class 7A state championship.

But Elzy was the player that provided the most impressive high-level moments this season, the one that regularly turned in jaw-dropping feats of skill and athleticism. The All-Area and All-City selection led the Wolverines to a 12-1 season and the Prep Bowl championship.

Elzy, who has offers from nearly 30 FBS colleges, committed to Illinois live on NBC on Saturday at the All-American Game in San Antonio. His final four came down to the Fighting Illini, Wisconsin, Michigan, Tennessee and Notre Dame.

“Illinois prioritized me and showed me how much they needed me on the team,” Elzy said.

Elzy, a 6-3, 200-pound wide receiver/defensive back, made highlight-reel catches and leveled opponents with devasting hits. He was also a force on punt returns. Elzy originally committed to Cincinnati back in July. He decommitted in late October and reopened his recruitment.

Elzy ranked No. 4 in Illinois, 43rd among receivers and No. 305 overall in the 247Sports composite rankings. He is the highest-rated wide receiver Illinois has signed since Arrelious Benn in 2007.

“[Elzy] is our team,’’ Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said after Elzy led the Wolverines to a win against Wheaton-Warrenville South. “He punts, plays defense and offense. He might be the best player I’ve seen at Simeon.”

Elzy is the second top-five and fourth top-20 recruit from Illinois for Bret Bielema, joining Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond athlete Kaden Feagin, the No. 4 ranked player, and two East St. Louis teammates: No. 18 offensive tackle Brandon Henderson and No. 20 linebacker Antwon Hayden.

“I did not expect [Bielema and his staff] to win over the state so quickly,” Rivals recruiting analyst Clint Cosgrove said. “If you want to win a Big Ten championship, you have to have guys like these on your roster.”

Elzy finished the season with 45 catches for 1,025 yards and 11 TDs.

“It’s huge when you get an elite, big-body receiver that has the ability to play right away,” Cosgrove said. “[Elzy] has the ability to be a dominant receiver in the Big Ten. He’s almost like a basketball player [with his leaping ability]. He’s going to win 50/50 balls.”

Illinois recruit David Olano, a kicker from Naperville North, nailed a 50-yard field goal in the All-American game just a few minutes before Elzy announced his commitment. It was quite a five-minute burst of optimism for the Fighting Illini football program.

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