Fenwick football coach Gene Nudo has had some pretty good bloodlines on his team throughout his three years in Oak Park.
Last year four grandchildren of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner played for him. And while the number has dwindled down to two — Ryan Smith and Robert Spillane — there’s no doubt they’re cut from the same cloth.
Smith, a senior tight end, caught two touchdowns his first two games with the Friars with a total of 251 yards on 19 catches.
“He comes from a very competitive family and he’s a great kid. He’s obviously earned his reputation,” said Nudo. “He’s been a two-year starter for us, he had a great year as a junior last year and he’s got all the attributes you want. He’s 6-foot-4, 240, has soft hands, he can run and more importantly he’s a great kid.”
Smith has been playing football since eighth grade, alongside future Western Michigan running back Robert Spillane.
“We’ve always had a connection,” said Smith, a River Forest native. “We grew up together, lived a town over and always threw the football around so it’s a nice connection.”
Spillane, hailing from Oak Park, is one of his cousin’s biggest fans.
“We played with each other for awhile and he’s just a great player,” Spillane said. “He’s awesome to play with and makes great plays. It’s just great to be on the field with him at all times.”
Smith kept busy in the offseason. He intends on trying out for the Fenwick basketball team and also plays rugby for the Friars in the spring. It made for a busy second semester, but he said it’s worth it.
“I have rugby during lifting and conditioning for football. so it’s tough,” he said. “I have football in the morning, school and then rugby practice. It’s a lot of work but it’s a good offseason sport and keeps me in shape for football.”
Smith hasn’t firmed up plans for college, but knows what he wants this fall.
“I want us to win state,” he said. “That’s our goal, state is always our goal.”
The Friars (4-0, 1-0) travel to St. Xavier to face St. Ignatius (1-3, 0-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Chicago Catholic White.