Every playoff victory adds to Conor Joyce's growing legacy at Naperville Central.
Joyce hopes his postseason success can add to another, more overlooked aspect: his recruiting.
The senior quarterback was named the offensive MVP of the DuPage Valley Conference and has led the Redhawks to their third consecutive Class 8A quarterfinal appearance. He's passed for 2,024 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 507 yards and nine scores this season.
Yet Joyce is scholarship-less and has received minimal interest, with Butler, Dayton and Western Illinois currently only showing interest in the two-way threat.
"My recruiting is going a lot slower than I thought it would at this point," Joyce said. "People don't really look at me too much for whatever reason. I've noticed if we keep moving on in the playoffs that it will help me out.
"I understand that if we keep moving on, the playing field gets smaller and smaller for people to look at. It looks good if we keep winning, and more people will be watching the further we go. I'm just going to keep trying to play my best, and hopefully the right person is watching the right game and they like me."
Naperville Central coach Mike Stine expressed frustration that his quarterback remains without a scholarship but understands college coaches seek certain attributes in a quarterback. Joyce's height falls below the ideal standard most college coaches desire, Stine said. Joyce is 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds.
"There's a lot of 6-3 and 6-4 quarterbacks now that have college offers and are not as a good a quarterback as Conor, nor will they be in the long run, but they fit in the mold," Stine said. "Conor is going to break that mold. Whoever gets him is going to get a really good quarterback. He has a lot of weapons and things he can do on the field. He will get a chance. He will play somewhere.
"Hopefully, we can keep this run going a few more weeks and he will open up a few more eyes. I think he can play at the Mid-American (Conference) level and the (Division) I-AA level. I've had some recruiting analysts and college coaches I know evaluate him, like Michigan State and Penn State. They think the same thing."
A former outside linebacker, Joyce is not a typical pocket passer. He likes to run the ball and doesn't shy away from contact. Joyce sparked the Redhawks to a come-from-behind 14-7 victory against Bolingbrook in the first round of the playoffs. He turned the game around with four straight running plays, capped by a 2-yard touchdown with six minutes left.
He finished with 100 yards rushing and 175 passing.
"We've had some great quarterbacks here at Central in the last 20 years, but his arm strength is equal to any of them," Stine said. "He can make all the throws. He can throw the ball into a tight window. He plays the position with a linebacker's mentality.
"He can hurt you with his legs and extend plays. He's not going to look to run out of bounds. He's going to look to run over somebody."
Joyce added three rushing touchdowns in Naperville Central's 49-28 romp against Warren in Friday's second-round contest. The Redhawks (10-1) visit Waubonsie Valley at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in a quarterfinal.
Joyce credits his offensive line for providing him time to find Iowa-bound wide receiver Emmanuel Rugamba and Matt Lehmann.
Unlike some recruits, Joyce expresses little irritation over his height. He'd rather focus on his team and finishing the season in the state title game in DeKalb.
"I know I'm tall enough to get the job done," Joyce said. "It's kind of frustrating that I haven't gotten a few more looks, but hopefully it will pick up if we keep winning and moving on. I'm focused on the playoffs right now and will figure out the next plan after the season."
Watts feeling the heat: Phillips senior defensive tackle Amir Watts discovered one negative since his transfer from De La Salle: a longer season. Watts is one of the top uncommitted seniors remaining in the state. He originally committed to Western Michigan in April before reopening his recruiting in August.
Watts has a lengthy and diverse list of scholarship offers, with 20 offers ranging from the Big Ten and SEC to the Mid-American Conference and FCS schools.
The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder is one of the leaders for the undefeated Wildcats (11-0), a top seed in Class 4A. He has 80 tackles and 20 sacks among his 24 tackles for loss.
"I'm going to take these official visits and see what happens there," Watts said. "I'm trying to hurry up before they fill up at my position. I've been trying to visits schools and telling the coaches, but we are still in the playoffs."
"I'm trying to see if I can get some late offers, such as USC or Ole Miss," he said. "I want to play somewhere warm."
Bob Narang is a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune.