Guerin senior Joe Binkowski played varsity football during his freshman season but decided to focus on basketball the next two years.
The Gators’ football coaches and players wanted him to come back to the gridiron for his final year at the River Grove school so they used a tactic Binkowski would understand: a full-court press.
“For the last two years we had been trying to get him to come out,” head football coach Tony Pecoraro said. “This year we were working, working, working it and he finally came out and I think now he realizes what type of special talent he is. We think he can help us on offense, defense and special teams and when he gets the ball, he’s tough to bring down.”
Having played only one season of football, Binkowski had a case of jitters when fall practices started.
“At first I was a little bit nervous because I thought a lot would be expected of me,” he said. “But the first practice was great and ever since then it’s just gotten better and better.”
Binkowski did have adversity to overcome when he hurt his back during the third day of practice. It’s limited him some, but he’s been getting treatment and is feeling better. That was proven by his performance in Guerin’s 42-18 win over Tilden on Saturday.
The 6-foot, 180-pound senior scored the first touchdown of his football career on a 25-yard pass from Tyler Flynn early in the second quarter. But Binkowski didn’t stop there as he hauled in an 11-yard pass for a score in the third quarter.
“The first one was a wheel route and I faked (right), the guy went into the flat and I went deep and was wide open,” Binkowski said. “It’s a lot harder when you’re wide open because there’s so much pressure on you. I just took a breath and thought ‘Here we go.’
“It’s pretty exciting because it’s my last year and I wanted to cross getting a touchdown off my bucket list and I got two today so I’m even more excited.”
Binkowski finished the game with four catches for 57 yards.
Guerin (2-0) has never been to the state playoffs and went 1-8 last year, but that didn’t deter Binkowski. He has big expectations for this season as the Gators prepare for a Suburban Christian crossover Saturday against Marian Central (11-1 last year).
“We’re not going to lay down for Marian. We’ll see how it goes because you never know,” he said. “Then Walther Lutheran (Sept. 20) is probably our biggest game of the season. We want to win that because we’re trying to get to the playoffs this season, something that’s never been done. I feel something is different with this football team this year. I believe in them and we’ve all put our hearts into it.”
Binkowski is ranked No. 1 academically in his class at Guerin and is thinking about studying business or engineering. He’s unsure if he will play college basketball because he’d prefer to attend a big school and focus on academics.
Flynn, who is a sophomore, enjoys working with Binkowski and is glad his coaches’ and teammates’ persuasive techniques paid off.
“Joe is quick, strong, puts in the work and he knows exactly what he’s doing,” Flynn said. “Once you get him the ball he becomes a powerful asset to our offense and he can score when he wants to.”