FAIRBURY — For many high school athletes, the COVID-19 pandemic has been very detrimental to those hoping to reach the next level post-graduation. In the spring, inter-scholastic athletics were cancelled in Illinois before they even really began. Now, sports have been shuffled for the 2020-21 season.
Football was the highest risk of starting on time, as it clearly comes with the most contact of any sport. Since the pandemic began, teams have been severely limited in what they can do regarding workouts, weight lifting, camps etc. Now it will be a spring sport.
For Prairie Central senior quarterback Kaden King, however, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was presented to him to get his name out there. King was nominated and selected to participate in the 2021 Hawaii Tiki Senior Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 30-Jan. 4.
"I was nominated and then I was evaluated by the staff and all the coaches," King said. "I was invited to go play. It’s a six-day trip in Honolulu. It means a lot coming from a small town, being able to represent my community and Prairie Central."
For many athletes like King, the quarantine period meant that he would have to miss many showcase camps during the offseason that could have helped his recruitment to play at the next level. King is coming off of a season where he compiled 1,204 rushing yards on 165 attempts and 17 touchdowns in helping the Hawks finish 9-3 and reach the Class 4A quarterfinals. He also piled up 450 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Despite this, King still feels as though he is in good shape in his recruitment, with multiple Division I and II schools knocking at the door with interest. King cites his team’s deep playoff run as a major impact on his college interest.
"I think it impacted it (recruitment) a lot," King said. "We came off a great season. Making a playoff run like that catches college coaches’ eyes and makes them want to watch and look at the players that are playing good during big games like we had in the playoffs. I don’t think COVID affected me too much, but it did a little."
With King and other key performers returning for the 2020 season, the Hawks have extremely high expectations throughout the offseason. Despite being very limited in team activities due to COVID-19, King feels as though the Hawks will be more than ready for a hopeful season.
"This upcoming season, I truly believe and our team and coaches believe that we can make a really good playoff run," King said. "We’ve been talking about a state championship run, but we have to prepare for that. I’m looking to become more of a leader this season. We didn’t pass that much last year, but we are going to have a different approach this upcoming season."
While King and members of the Hawks play the waiting game as far as what is and is not allowed workout-wise, King stays motivated by remembering his late grandmother, Kim Coomber, who passed away last November.
"My biggest inspiration is my grandma that passed in November," King said. "She always believed in me, and always pushed me and told me to keep going. She had a big eye for me. She believed in how much I could do and what my potential was."