Loyola’s Joe Joyce isn’t slowed by lack of speed, size

SHARE Loyola’s Joe Joyce isn’t slowed by lack of speed, size

Joe Joyce is like many of his teammates on the Loyola football team: Even though he lacks some of the physical gifts that major college coaches seem to require, he’s proved himself to be a talented, intelligent high school player.

At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds and without track-star speed, the senior does not not expect to play Big 10 football even though he is considering enrolling at Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. 

Through Loyola coach John Helecek, Joyce has heard that a few smaller schools are interested.

“But I might just end up not playing football,” said Joyce, a Northbrook resident. 

That means Saturday’s Class 8A state championship game could be the final one of his career. Joyce — who has 55 catches for 554 yards and a team-leading 11 touchdowns — had a big hand in Loyola getting to the final weekend as he was one of the heroes in the dramatic semifinal win over Stevenson.

“Joe’s not the tallest or fastest, but he has such good technique,” Loyola junior receiver Owen Buscaglia said. “That’s something I’ve struggled with, and the coaches always tell me to look at [Joyce’s] great routes. He’s got awesome hands and he makes plays that you wouldn’t expect looking at him. He’s very physical and battles on the outside.”

Loyola senior quarterback Jack Penn has spread the ball around to his pass-catching quartet that also features Buscaglia (57 catches, 662 yards, nine touchdowns), senior receiver Fran O’Malley (36, 443, two) and senior tight end Joe Dixon (25, 393, three).

The players are close friends and trace their success to the many hours they spent together over the summer running routes outside of official team activities.

During those workouts in the heat, the players regularly talked about where they hoped to spend their Thanksgiving weekend.

“We always knew whenever we were meeting up to throw, that it was for a common goal, to win a state championship,” Penn said.

That chance arrives at 7 p.m. Saturday when the top-seeded Ramblers (12-1) face No. 7 Naperville Central (10-3) in the state title game at Northern Illinois in DeKalb.

Loyola reached the game with a 15-14 win over Stevenson on Saturday in Lincolnshire. With just over a minute remaining in the contest, Penn connected with Joyce for a 15-yard touchdown that brought the Ramblers to within a point.

Holecek’s gutsy decision to go for a two-point conversion proved a good one when Penn threw toward Joyce, who jumped and caught the ball for the game-winning points.

“I had no doubt when they called that play and rolled out toward Joe, that he would come down with it,” Buscaglia said “That catch, it seemed like he just snagged it out of the sky.”

In addition to marveling at Joyce’s football ability, Buscaglia said Joyce, a second-year starter and one of four team captains, has been an important role model.

“I really look up to him as a person, the way he treats his teammates and has treated me,” Buscaglia said.

Joyce said he’s tried to provide the guidance he received last season from Richie Wehman, who was a star receiver for the Ramblers and now plays at Denison University (Ohio).

“I just saw [Wehman] as the guy with [the] most experience,” Joyce said. “Having him there was helpful for me when I was still learning the little stuff, trying to grasp the plays and the nuances of the offense. Richie helped me a lot.”

The Latest
Police say the 39-year-old man was on the sidewalk in the 100 block of North Green Street before 11:30 p.m. when the driver in a red sedan fired and shot the man in the face.
Laphonza Butler is a former labor leader who now heads Emily’s List, an organization that supports Democratic women candidates who supports abortion rights.
The president tells allies that the U.S. commitment remains strong. But Republican resistance to giving aid to Ukraine has grown, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy may tie additional funds to efforts to protect the southern U.S. border.
The Illini, 2-3 after a 44-19 loss at Purdue, are the most disappointing team in what arguably is the worst Big Ten West division ever.