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Illini tight end Matt LaCosse eager to impress Bears, Packers

Before Frank Kaminsky could beat an undefeated Kentucky team, he had to beat old friend Matt LaCosse in high school in the state playoffs.

And it took two overtimes for the Wisconsin star to do that as undefeated Benet Academy, the state’s top team at the time in 2011, knocked off LaCosse and Naperville North High.

“It was one of the greatest games to ever happen in this era,” said LaCosse, who made a three-pointer to force the first overtime. “I had a pretty successful game against [Kaminsky], but he’s also a pretty good player.”

So is LaCosse — just in football. LaCosse spent the last four years as a tight end at Illinois. After an impressive pro day on March 5, the 6-6, 258-pounder was formally invited to attend the Bears’ local pro day at Halas Hall on Tuesday.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to show my skills to an organization that I’ve been a fan of,” LaCosse said.

Even better is that LaCosse is scheduled to have a pre-draft visit with the Green Bay Packers on Thursday. The Packers are one of the league’s best drafting teams.

“To be even considered one of those guys to get looked at, I’m very honored,” LaCosse said. “It’s definitely a confidence builder, since it’s such a historic team that has a great system that the Packers have.”

LaCosse’s stock has taken off since his pro day, where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds. That would have been the second-best among tight ends if he attended the NFL Scouting Combine.

“[The scouts] were definitely intrigued by what I was able to do,” LaCosse said. “A lot of them said they had to go back and watch my film from my junior and senior years. I still think I have question marks on me because I wasn’t the most productive player at Illinois.”

That’s because he was required to do so many things. Injuries at tackle forced him to remain in as a blocker often. LaCosse played fullback, and the Illini also used different quarterbacks and changed offensive coordinators.

“I have a touchdown catch from four different quarterbacks,” said LaCosse, who had 38 catches for 397 yards and six touchdowns after four years at Illinois. “The biggest thing is that I learned three different offenses, three different playbooks in four years.”

Still, LaCosse believes it all might help him in the NFL.

“I’m proud of how multiple I became,” he said.

LaCosse’s success against Ohio State in 2013 also helps. He spent all game matched up against linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby, two future first-round picks.

“I had three catches for over 20 yards, being able to jump over Bradley Roby for one,” said LaCosse, who played quarterback in high school. “I was playing with them.”

Of course, it wasn’t his first time going against a star.

LaCosse, who was recruited by Northern Illinois and UIC in basketball, helped hold Kaminsky to 10 points in their matchup four years ago. They played on a travel team together before high school.

“It’s awesome to see someone you basically grow up with be really successful at the next level,” LaCosse said.

And he could be next.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com
Twitter: @adamjahns