SENECA – Austin Applebee had options when he was looking for a college at which he could continue his career as a student-athlete beyond Seneca High School.
In fact, Applebee drew interest in each of the three sports – football, basketball and baseball – that he has played for the Fighting Irish. Applebee spent months weighing his options before recently deciding to play football at Division II McKendree University.
When Applebee suits up for the Bearcats, he will become the third of Mike and Laurie Applebee’s children to play college sports.
Johnson: McKendree – how did that come about?
Applebee: Well, we had colleges visit our school, and there was like five of us football players who are potential college athletes. I decided they were the best fit for me, and Brad (Wyss is) going there too – that may have influenced a little bit. Get to play with a former teammate in college. I don’t know. It just seemed like it was the best fit for me.
Johnson: I know you had some opportunities to play basketball and baseball as well. Why football?
Applebee: Baseball’s always been my favorite sport, but I’m not the most successful in baseball, and I feel like most of my success has been in football. That’s one of my favorite sports, and it would be hard to imagine a season without it. You can only play football for so many years. It’s always been one of my favorites.
Johnson: Did you think hard about basketball at all?
Applebee: Yeah, definitely. It was really a toss-up between basketball and football. The opportunities to play football are slim. You can play basketball until you’re 50 years old. The way this season went this year for football, I didn’t want it to end, and I’m excited to start a new one next season.
Johnson: What are they going to use you as positionally? Are you gonna play defense? Are you gonna get to play some offense, too, do you know?
Applebee: I believe I’ll be a defensive end, but I’m not quite sure yet.
Johnson: Does it matter to you? Did you want to have the chance to continue to play either spot?
Applebee: It really doesn’t matter to me. I love them both, so whatever one they choose for me, I’ll go out and perform my best when I get the opportunity.
Johnson: You’ve been a part of a great deal of success here, especially in football and basketball. What accomplishment, in a team sense, stands out the most?
Applebee: Going to the third round of the playoffs and playing the state defending champions [Aurora Christian] and giving them a really good game, and to make it to that third round, especially since the Seneca football program hasn’t gone to the playoffs since 2001. I don’t know. It’s tough to explain how that feels – to be a part of the team to bring Seneca football back on the map.
Johnson: I know your family’s big in sports. How big were sports in your life growing up?
Applebee: I’ve been playing baseball since I’ve been 2 years old, and playing basketball with my brother, Alex, who is a successful basketball player in Seneca. I’ve been playing against him since I was 5, and started playing football when I was 6 or 7. It’s been a huge part of my life.
Johnson: How many games do you think your parents have been to – to watch their kids play?
Applebee: Just watch me or everybody?
Johnson: The whole family.
Applebee: I couldn’t even put a number on it. There’s so many games. With four brothers and my sister – ah, man. ... You couldn’t put a number on it. It’s way too high.
Johnson: Having older siblings that have been through a) the recruiting process, and b) the playing at college process, what effect have they had on you as you look to become a college athlete yourself?
Applebee: They told me what they need to look into and what schools would be best for me and how their programs are, and how the college campus is and how important everything is about it, about looking into the college.