The stakes seem to be getting bigger in Eli King’s athletic future, and that’s probably a surprise to no one.
When you receive a scholarship offer to join the University of Notre Dame football program and find out in the same conversation that you are also on the basketball team’s radar, a new level has been reached.
King is a 6-foot-3 sophomore wide receiver at Caledonia High School and is no stranger to big-time recruiting. Before last weekend, he already had football offers from Minnesota, Iowa and Iowa State and a basketball offer from Northern Iowa.
That list will continue to grow, and watching King play either sport will show exactly why.
Whether he is catching an alley-oop pass and slamming the basketball through the hoop or catching a football in the middle of the field and running away from coverage, King’s athleticism is apparent.
The fact that the Fighting Irish have entered the fray and tried to get him on their roster after he graduates in 2022 show how apparent that is.
And despite any of King’s previous offers, that’s a big deal.
It’s Notre Dame.
“It was out of the blue for me,” King said of the offer, which came from new offensive coordinator Tommy Rees on Saturday. “I was a little surprised, I’d say, mostly because of how big the school is and that it isn’t right around here.”
Nope. It’s a national school that has a national audience, and that will always set it apart.
Maybe Notre Dame isn’t a national power like it once was, but it did finish 12th in the final Associated Press rankings last season and beat Iowa State 33-9 in the Camping World Bowl to finish 11-2.
The Fighting Irish are also just two years removed from an 12-1 season that ended with a 20-3 loss to Georgia in the Cotton Bowl, which acted as one of the national semifinal games.
Aside from Clemson, Alabama, LSU or Ohio State, Notre Dame is one of the top schools a recruit can hear from. The fact that King is going to talk to coaches in two sports during a future visit shows more clearly what he brings to the table as a student and athlete.
“Northwestern is another school that has shown a lot of interest,” Caledonia football coach Carl Fruechte said. “Schools like Northwestern and Notre Dame have very high academic standards, and they’ve seen his transcript. Having schools like that interested really makes us proud.”
But Fruechte, who has coached a handful of future Division I football players — Karl Klug played at Iowa before an NFL career with Tennessee, Isaac Fruechte at Minnesota before catching on with the Minnesota Vikings and Zeke Ott at North Dakota before an injury — appreciates any attention paid to his players.
“We appreciate all of them and none more than any of the others,” he said. “It’s just nice to see college coaches seeing what these kids can do and giving them chances like they are doing.”
King caught 50 passes as a sophomore, and 21 of them went for touchdowns. He also returned three punts and three kickoffs for touchdowns, showing tremendous cutting ability and speed on a consistent basis. He helped the Warriors win their fifth straight MSHSL Class AA championship.
His high-flying sophomore basketball season resulted in averages of 16.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists as the Caledonia spent the season ranked No. 1 and qualified for the state tournament before the season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While King played wide receiver the last two seasons, there is a chance that he could switch to quarterback for the next two. He said Notre Dame was open to playing him at quarterback if he makes the change and those seasons go well.
But King isn’t one to get too excited about these kinds of things. That’s no different than his older brothers, Owen and Noah, both of whom navigated the Division I basketball recruiting waters.
“It was pretty exciting at our house for a little while,” Eli said of Saturday. “But then it calmed down again.”
That little roller-coaster will probably continue for Eli until he makes a decision. He has not yet decided which sport he’d like to play in college, and there is no rush with programs from both sports showing interest.
It’s all about building a collection of opportunities at this point, and King’s is coming together pretty nicely.
Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @SommerfeldtLAX
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