- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Lincoln-Way East wide receiver J.J. Robertson is in line to have an unforgettable weekend if all goes right.
It begins Friday with No. 3 Lincoln-Way East traveling to face No. 12 Bolingbrook. The game’s winner will likely end up taking the conference crown and put itself in good position to make a run at a state championship.
The next morning, Robertson will drive down to Champaign and watch his future team No. 24 Illinois take on rival Northwestern on homecoming.
If all goes according to plan for Robertson, Lincoln-Way East will be 6-0 and Illinois will be 5-0 at the end of the weekend.
Robertson isn’t getting ahead of himself. He knows Bolingbrook isn’t going to make it easy on him or his teammates.
“Bolingbrook, they’re big and fast and really strong,” said Robertson, who is 6-foot and 192 pounds. “But I expect that every week when I go into a game. I love to have that challenge. I love it when people key on me. It makes me better and takes me to the next level.”
Defenses were burned last year by Robertson for 23 receptions, 615 yards and nine touchdowns. They learned their lesson and have been focusing on him this season. The problem for them now is Robertson has become a more diverse wide receiver.
A year ago, Lincoln-Way East went to Robertson time after time on post routs. The play often worked, and it’s why Robertson averaged nearly 30 yards a catch. With an understanding that opponents would take that play away this year, Robertson improved his strength and route running in the offseason and has become an all-around threat.
“J.J. has always been committed to the weight room and has become much stronger as well,” Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar said. “It’s not just the deep ball anymore. He can turn the short catch into something. Illinois is getting a great one.
“I think in terms of intangibles -- his fierce competitiveness and like a champion when the game is on the line and there’s a big play to make, he wants the ball in his hands. As for as tangibles, his hand-eye coordination ball skills are incredible. He can catch the ball with one hand better than most people can with two.”
Robertson’s athleticism was passed down from his father, Jason Sr., whose sport was baseball. He starred at Hillcrest High School, was drafted by the New York Yankees and made his way up to Class AAA. Robertson gave baseball a try his first two years at Lincoln-Way East, but realized his love and his skill were in football and gave up his dad’s game.
“Baseball was always my dream sport growing up,” said Robertson, who has six touchdowns this season. “My junior year, I realized my talent was truly in football. He respected my decision.”
So far, it appears he made the right choice. Illinois is hopeful he’ll help in the future. He was offered by the Illini shortly after his junior season, and he committed in May.
“He seems to fit right in what they’re trying to do there,” Zvonar said. “He’s going to help them whether he’s blocking or catching the ball. How quickly will be up to him.”