STOCKTON–Stockton senior Andrew Haas and River Ridge senior Caleb Rhodes have been selected to take part in the Illinois High School Shrine game. The game is set to take place on June 19 at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.
Haas was selected to the team as a defensive back, and Rhodes was selected to the team as a linebacker. Rhodes and Haas are two of four players from NUIC schools selected for the honor. Gabe Howard from Durand-Pecatonica, and Travis Wilson of Forreston will also play. These four athletes are among only 120 from across the state.
“Being selected to the Shriners game means a lot to me,” said Haas. “Growing up, I’ve always dreamed of playing football at a high and competitive level whether it was fighting for a varsity spot as an underclassman or now working for offers to continue playing in college. This is going to be another opportunity for me to show my worth, compete at a high level, and most importantly, set the tone for the next generation of Stockton Blackhawks football.”
“Being selected for the Shriner game is very special to me,” said Rhodes. “It is very exciting to be able to get to play in this game. I am blessed to be able to play in one last game with some of the best players in the state.”
Athletes are nominated by coaches and are selected by the Illinois Coaches Association.
“My initial reaction to being selected was that I was just in complete awe. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it,” recalled Haas. “I was sitting in my math class and my phone started buzzing and buzzing so I went to silence it and saw Coach Leitzen texted me telling me to check my Twitter. I checked it and got the news and my jaw dropped. What started as leaving me in complete astonishment quickly turned into excitement. It was definitely a roller coaster of emotions.”
“Andrew Haas has established himself as one of the leaders of our team during this offseason,” said Matt Leitzen, Stockton head football coach. “I’m sure this recognition means a lot to Andrew. It provides evidence that his hard work has paid off and he is now being recognized across the state.”
“Caleb has worked extremely hard to make himself a better football player in the weight room, on the practice field and in the classroom,” said Doug Nicholas, River Ridge head football coach. “He is a hard working kid who is selfless and will do whatever is needed for us to be successful.”
Haas and Rhodes were both thankful for the opportunity to participate in the game.
“I credit my family, friends and coaches for my success on and off the field,” said Haas. “First and foremost my dad, Shane, because I do it all for him, he’s my motivation. I would’ve given up on my dream of playing football if it weren’t for him. I thank my grandma for always being my number one fan, never missing a football game or wrestling meet since 6th grade. Lastly I would like to thank the Hermann family for essentially taking me in and treating me as one of their own. They have driven us all over the Midwest for wrestling tournaments, football events, and college visits. The people within my circle know who they are and they know how much I appreciate them and how much they mean to me.”
“I credit every single one of my coaches for being able to have this experience,” said Rhodes. “I am thankful for the football player they have turned me into from freshman through senior year. It truly is a blessing to be able to participate in the 2021 football game.”
Each year the game also features many ancillary events such as a parade, a formal event banquet, and an official visit to Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago.
“This is a great opportunity, not only to play football, but to work with the children at the Shriners Hospital,” said Leitzen. “As far as a program, we are very proud of Andrew and this accomplishment, he has been a great role model and leader for this team. I know that he will not only represent this year’s Stockton football team but all of those who played before him as well.”
“I am so happy for him to have this opportunity and it is great for River Ridge to have a representative,” said Nicholas.