Most recruits have a dream school. Ruben Dunbar has two of them.
Dunbar, Glenbard West's 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive end, hopes to hear from Ohio State and Michigan. Up to now, he has a dozen offers, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State and Minnesota. But Ohio State and Michigan aren't among them.
He likes Ohio State because former Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor was one of his favorite players.
He likes Michigan because he once attended a game at Michigan Stadium and came away awed by the experience.
"I hope they will see my film and offer me," Dunbar said. "I want to make a lot of visits. I'm not sure what to do. I don't care about tradition. I'm looking for a college with a close campus, not too big, with good people, a family-based team with good coaches."
"Once schools see him on film, more will offer," Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. "They like his athleticism, his speed and long arms, the way he shuns blocks."
Dunbar hopes college recruiters will closely scrutinize last year's Hinsdale Central film. "I laid someone out. They're recruiting me as a defensive end. It doesn't matter what defense they play (3-4 or 4-3 or 5-2), just as long as I play," he said.
A year ago, Dunbar played "the other end" on Glenbard West's defense--Robin to Tommy Schutt's Batman. Schutt was one of the state's top-rated players. After originally committing to Penn State, he changed his mind and opted for Ohio State.
Dunbar benefited from Schutt's presence. While recruiters watched Schutt on film, they gradually took notice of Dunbar. Opponents double-teamed Schutt, allowing Dunbar to make plays. And when opponents ran away from Schutt, Dunbar was waiting.
"He motivated me a lot," Dunbar said. "He was the leader on the team. He was on the team for three years, someone I could trust on the defensive line, someone who could make a play. I'm working hard because I want to be better than him. I watched film and saw how he took on double teams. I want to be better than that even though he was bigger than me."
Dunbar admires Schutt so much that he plans to ask Hetlet to wear jersey number 10, Schutt's old number, for the 2012 season. "I want to wear it. All defensive line leaders at Glenbard West have worn number 10," said Dunbar, who wore number 99 last season.
"I've always felt I was good enough. I always was competitive. I never put myself under anyone else. I'm very competitive. I don't like losing.
What really gets me mad is people who don't try their hardest. I'm one of the leaders on this team. It's my last season. I'm trying to make my teammates work harder than I am working."
He has one goal for the 2012 season--to win a state championship. The last few seasons have been very frustrating for Glenbard West, especially last year's 10-3 loss to Lake Zurich that snapped a 10-game unbeaten string in the second round of the Class 7A playoff.
"We felt we should have won the game," he said.
Curiously, Dunbar describes himself as a football player who likes to play basketball. He started dribbling a ball when he was 6 years old. It was fun and he and his father went one-on-one in the alley. Then he started to play football in sixth grade and joined the Golden Eagles youth team. All of a sudden, football became a priority in his life.
"I was an offensive tackle as a freshman. Then I was moved to defensive line in the middle of my freshman year and moved up to the sophomore team," he said. "I though offensive line was kind of boring, not fun at all. I liked hitting. I like to make tackles, not block."
He still plays basketball with the Bulldogs' AAU team to stay in shape in the off-season, but he works out every morning in the school's weight room. He has added 20 pounds of muscle since last fall.
"I'm working on getting off the ball more quickly. I feel stronger and just as fast as I was when I weighed 235 pounds," he said. "I just want to play my game. What is my game? Get off the ball and get to the quarterback or running back or get to the ball."