Matt Westerkamp won two state football championships at Montini Catholic High School and quarterbacked Robert Morris University Illinois to a 4-4 showing in its inaugural season.
Cody Onsen hopes to battle Westerkamp for RMU starting job and do some winning of his own with the Eagles once their second season takes flight in late August.
Onsen was one of 74 student-athletes to sign national letters of intent with RMU in early February. A primary reason he picked the school over Illinois State University, Wisconsin Whitewater and St. Xavier is the possibility of immediate playing time. Westerkamp got almost all of the snaps under center for the Eagles in 2011, and Onsen would like that to change.
"Playing early was one of the main things for me, because I'm not the type where I like to watch other people do it," Onsen said. "I want to be the one getting out there and making plays. That's how I am.
"I'm going to try to come in and compete with (Westerkamp) and work for my spot. Pretty much make sure I know the playbook early, as much as possible, and try to compete with him for some early playing time and see what happens."
Eagles coach Jared Williamson was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Illinois Wesleyan University when Cody's brother, Tiger, went there as a linebacker in 2010. Cody Onsen also has some familiarity with Williamson's offense. It primarily features spread formations, as did the Coal City High School offense in which Onsen had a Morris Daily Herald All-Area MVP season in 2011.
"They run some spread and also some under-center things like what we did. It's pretty similar to what we ran. It comes down to calling a lot of audibles under center. A lot if in the quarterback's hands, just like it was (at CCHS). You just have to go up there and read it and call out what you see and get everyone where they've got to be," Onsen said.
"When I come up, I've got to see if they've got two deep safeties and where the corners are, start with the kind of coverage they're playing and go from there. My dad (CCHS head coach Lenny Onsen) is a defensive coach and I know what he's running all the time already."
Cody Onsen is the all-time leading passer at CCHS with 3,578 yards. As a senior, he passed for 2,235 yards and 28 touchdowns and rushed for 351 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“Cody is one of the most naturally gifted players in this class," Williamson said in an RMU release. "He is from the Brett Favre school of quarterbacking in regards to throwing from all arm angles and choosing to run a defender over rather than running out of bounds. I am very excited about his potential at the collegiate level.”
Though RMU is restricted in the number of scholarships it can award as an NAIA school, Onsen says the majority of his tuition, and room and board in downtown Chicago, will be covered. He plans to major in business management.
RMU football players generally live near and attend classes at the Chicago campus, located at 401 S. State Street in Chicago, the Eagles play at Morris Field at the Robert Morris Arlington Heights Campus and have to commute between the two locations for practice and other football-related activities.
"I kind of like it better," Onsen said. "Like they said, if you went to a normal school at a normal campus, everything would take the same amount (of time). Once you're there (in Arlington Heights), you're able to concentrate on on football and it equals out to the same amount of time. It's strictly football and then it's over. Once I'm there, I won't have to worry about things like going back to my room to change. It's meetings, practice and watching game film all at once. I like that."
Onsen is also looking forward to the possibility of being "remembered" as one of the players who helped build a successful football program.
"I think it's a real nice fit," Lenny Onsen said. "The problem a lot of kids have when they leave our program is that, if it's not a good program, they'll find it's not as much fun as they had in high school. I think with the excitement of the new program and the NAIA success they've had early, there's a whole lot going on and the chance for them to have a lot of success."