High School: Jason Robertson

LWE's Robertson primed for big weekend

September, 30, 2011
Lincoln-Way East wide receiver J.J. Robertson is in line to have an unforgettable weekend if all goes right.

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Courtesy/Scott PowersJason Robertson hopes his current team (Lincoln-Way East) and future one (Illinois) stay undefeated after this weekend.
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.”

Prep football: Five Week 4 thoughts

September, 19, 2011
Here are my five thoughts from the high school football weekend.

1. That’s some offense: I had my first chance to catch Lincoln-Way East up close on Friday. After watching the Griffins defeat Homewood-Flossmoor 38-21, I can say for certain that has to be one of the state’s premier offenses. Quarterback Blake Winkler has a big arm and knows the offense inside and out in his second year as a starter. Jason Robertson is among the state’s best wide receivers. He has speed and size and can make guys miss, as he showed on Friday. Plus, Lincoln-Way East has other capable receivers and a solid running game. It’s going to take a special defense to stop the Griffins.

2. Lenti’s legend: One of my favorite aspects of last week was being able to talk to Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti about his career. Lenti set the state record for coaching wins on Saturday, and he spoke earlier in the week with me about the record, his career and more. If you get a chance, check it out.

3. Time is flying by: I can’t believe it’s already Week 5 and we’re about to pass the halfway point of the regular season. After four weeks, I think we have an idea about some teams -- Maine South, Glenbard West, etc. -- but there are still plenty of teams, especially unranked ones, who we still need to feel out. I think teams like Antioch, Aurora Christian, Barrington, Brother Rice, Conant, Marian Central and Sandburg, among others, will be ones watch to in the coming weeks.

4. Player of the Year talk: It’s probably a little too early to talk about the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year, but what the heck. I think some of the early leading candidates have to be Downers Grove South running back Josh Williams, Glenbard West defensive lineman Tommy Schutt, Montini wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp, Joliet Catholic running back Ty Isaac, Loyola quarterback Malcolm Weaver, Lincoln-Way East quarterback Blake Winkler and Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti.

5. Improving coverage: We’re constantly talking at ESPNChicago.com about how to improve our preps coverage. We’d love to hear from you, too. If you have any general or specific story ideas, please email me at spowers@espnchicago.com. Also if you have any high school football questions, send those on, too. I’ll try to answer them in coming blogs.

Lincoln-Way East WR commits to Illinois

May, 13, 2011
Lincoln-Way East junior wide receiver Jason Robertson has committed to Illinois.

Robertson, who is 5-11 and 180 pounds, chose the Illini over an offer from Western Michigan. Robertson caught 25 passes for 600 yards and nine touchdowns last season for the Griffins.

“First and foremost, he’s an absolute fierce competitor that has tremendous athleticism and ball skills,” Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar said. “He put himself on the map a year ago with some explosive plays. He can beat people deep and catch short to intermediate balls and get you yards after the catch.”

Robertson is Illinois’ second Class of 2012 recruit.