Montini's Westerkamp catches on

Jordan Westerkamp has lived to the standards of his father/coach Bob. Scott Powers/ESPNChicago.com

Bob Westerkamp discovered the hard way that his son Jordan was more interested in ice cream than football when he was in the third grade.

Bob had been a high school football star at Montini, played at Illinois and ended his career as an All-American receiver at Benedictine. He didn’t push his kids to be football stars, but he hoped they would at least play the game he loved.

When Jordan was in third grade, Bob took him out to the local pee-wee team tryouts. Jordan wasn’t ecstatic about playing football, but he was willing to try. Not long into the practice, Jordan said he wasn’t feeling good and went to rest on the sideline. A few minutes later, Bob turned around and couldn’t believe what he saw.

“The next thing he’s eating an ice cream bar,” Bob said. “He decided he wasn’t going to play.”

This story does have an happy ending. Jordan was invited back for another tryout later in the season, accepted it and on his first play caught a 90-yard touchdown pass.

“From there, he was hooked on it,” Bob said.

Jordan has been following -- and in some instances surpassing -- his father’s footsteps ever since. Now a junior at Montini, Jordan is coming off a sophomore season where he caught 51 passes for 1,156 yards and 16 touchdowns and helped the Broncos to the Class 5A state championship (something his father never did). Already, he’s received a scholarship offer from the Illini and has been labeled one the best players to ever come through Montini’s program.

There is obviously little time for Jordan to enjoy ice cream these days. Looking to meet everyone’s expectations, he spent nearly his entire offseason working toward becoming the state’s next great receiver. On Friday, Westerkamp makes his 2010 debut when Montini faces Joliet Catholic.

“He’s thicker,” Montini coach Chris Andriano said. “He’s a little faster. He’s stronger. He looks the part now. He looks like a freshman in college with his body and everything.

“He’s a physical receiver. He’s got great instincts. He’s got a great vertical jump. He goes and gets the ball. I wouldn’t say he’s got great speed, but he’s got speed and he knows how to run routes. He’s a complete package. He may be the best player we’ve ever had Montini, and he’s still got another year to go after this year.”

With Bob having had such a remarkable prep and collegiate career, Jordan is often compared to his father. Jordan, who is 6-2, is taller than his dad, who is 5-10, but their speed and verticals are similar. Bob does admit his son enjoys contact more than he did.

Jordan doesn’t mind the comparisons, though. Throughout his career, he’s used his dad’s achievements as a benchmark.

“One of his driving forces is he wants to do everything I did and do them better,” Bob said.

Bob has also been Jordan’s coach from his first reception to his last one. Bob has always worked with Jordan individually, but he is also Montini’s receivers coach.

“It’s great having my dad as the receivers coach,” Jordan said. “He played in high school and at the college level. He says, ‘Go out there and have fun, and make sure you’re doing the right stuff.’ Having him being able to coach me is unbelievable because I’m able to have him at home and at the field.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about having a dad as a coach. It’s not like he says, ‘Wake up and catch 100 passes, have lunch, catch 100 passes.’”

Bob doesn’t baby Jordan. If Jordan is willing to work, Bob is willing to show him what it takes to become an elite receiver.

“I still give him a pretty good push,” Bob said. “I try to not let him get complacent. I’m constantly pushing him to strive. He has been very good with it. Every once in a while, I’ll have to tell him, ‘I’m your dad, but on the field I’m your coach, and I’m trying to make you better and the team better.”’

As a sophomore, Jordan was a quick learner. He picked up the speed of the game early on, and by the time the state championship came around, Jordan had developed into a star.

Against Joliet Catholic in the state championship, no would have guessed he was only a sophomore. He caught a game-high six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.

“He loves that,” Andriano said of the big games. “He wants to be in that. He doesn’t shy away. He doesn’t hope it’s going to happen. He knows if you get him he ball he’s going to catch the ball. That’s how good he is. He’s got extreme confidence.”

Colleges have taken notice as well. Illinois was the first to offer, but the rest of the Big Ten is also eyeing him. He’s heard from Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State.

Being a coach, Bob doesn’t often get the chance to get caught up in his son’s achievements. He did allow himself a moment during the state title game, though.

“Last year at the state championship, I had my older son and Jordan playing and I had just tears in my eyes,” Bob said. “I was just sitting there and looking at them. They came a long way from liking ice cream better.”