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Neuqua Valley's Rhattigan picks Princeton
By Dave Oberhelman | Daily Herald Staff

Joey Rhattigan of Neuqua moves the ball during the Mt. Carmel at Neuqua Valley Class 8A football semifinal game Friday in Naperville.


Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Joey Rhattigan


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Published: 12/19/2012 10:54 PM

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There could not be a more appropriate college commitment story.

Neuqua Valley senior football player Joey Rhattigan was taking his macroeconomics final Wednesday when he received a call on his cellphone. Being in school he’d had the phone switched off. When Rhattigan got home and saw the caller was Princeton football coach Bob Surace, Rhattigan called him back.

“He said, ‘I have great news,’” Rhattigan said.

The great news was Princeton’s admissions department informed Surace that Rhattigan, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average, would be able to get into the lofty Ivy League school in New Jersey.

Rhattigan had great news for Surace, too. The captain of the Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area Football Team, who at tailback led Neuqua to its best season in history, offered his verbal commitment to the Tigers.

“When I was visiting Princeton (the weekend of Dec. 7) the coaching staff and I worked well together,” Rhattigan said. “We had a great relationship right off the bat, and really it just got better from there. Seeing the campus, the campus was awesome and the guys were great guys, too. Princeton was definitely the correct decision.”

Princeton and Cornell were the last on board for Rhattigan. He also had interest in Ivy Leaguers Brown and Harvard, Army and Navy, and Western Michigan. Rhattigan sent Princeton junior-year game film; this season Tigers coaches, including offensive coordinator James Perry, started calling.

Great timing, because the 6-foot, 200-pound Rhattigan had an outstanding campaign. An Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 8A All-State selection, he carried the ball 294 times for 2,226 yards and 33 touchdowns, all Neuqua Valley season records. While guiding the Wildcats to the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division title and a 12-1 record, Rhattigan also established program career records in each of those categories.

Rhattigan, whose older brother T.J. is a Penn State linebacker, expects to contribute at Princeton as a freshman.

“It’s no-huddle,” Joey Rhattigan said of the Tigers’ offense, “which is very similar to what we do at Neuqua ... The way they were explaining it to me is their run game is going to be very similar to how we ran the ball at Neuqua.”