SHELBYVILLE -- Three Shelbyville seniors are to continue their athletic careers in college next fall. The three include Turner Pullen and Kam Roley are to play football at McKendree University, while Ryan Skowronski is to run cross country and track at Olivet Nazarene University. In addition Pullen plans to run track.
Pullen and Roley
Pullen, a 6-3, 200-pound quarterback, who finished in the Illinois High School Association record book in numerous categories, picked McKendree after visiting Southern Illinois, Illinois State, Illinois College, Indianapolis and drew some late interest from Illinois as well.
"They definitely showed me the most out of any school that recruited me," said Pullen. "They offered me a full scholarship and that is very good for me and my family. It is very hard to pass that up."
Pullen and Roley helped Shelbyville to its second straight Class 2A semifinal appearance going 10-3 overall before falling to Maroa-Forsyth 25-14.
"It is special because it is really the first two guys we have had going on to play football that I have been the head coach for," said Shelbyville coach Bill Duckett. "They played well and hopefully I will get to see them play at the next level and see the continued improvement that they have had. They get to stay in the purple, white and grey colors."
McKendree has an enrollment of 2,937 and is located in Lebanon. It is a Division II school that competes in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Lat year the Bearcats were 7-4 overall and 5-2 in the conference. McKendree has had three straight winning seasons and is coached by former UCLA linebacker, Mike Babcock, who played in the 1998 Cotton Bowl and the 1999 Rose Bowl. Babcock is to be in his sixth year and has a record of 32-21.
Roley, a 6-3, 300-pound lineman, who moved in from Sullivan, had verbally committed to Illinois College, a Division III school located in Jacksonville.
"It was definitely one of the hardest things I had to do in decommitting from Illinois College," said Roley. "I really liked Illinois College a lot, but I had to tell them McKendree was calling me and they were going to offer more scholarship money and more of an opportunity. I had to do what was for me in the end."
Roley said football has been a part of his life for the better part of a decade.
"I knew right away I wanted to play college football," said Roley. "It is really a dream come true. I know it sounds corny, but honestly it is a dream come true to play at the next level."
Pullen said, "I think the biggest difference from high school to college is going to be the size and speed. I think the thing that is also a difference is learning the playbook and just developing as an all-around quarterback."
Pullen finished as the state's all-time leader in points scored (962), including total points in a season with 464 last fall. The 68 touchdowns (41 passing and 27 rushing) is the most in one season all-time in Illinois.
"Anywhere he was going to go to he was going to be a dynamic person," said Duckett. "I think they are going to be really excited to have him there. I think it is a good fit."
Pullen is the only scholarship quarterback they are bringing in and he joins four other quarterbacks, including Reece Metcalf, who is to be a senior and is a Mount Carmel grad who threw for 1,902 yards last season.
"They told me that the first week of camp and the first few weeks of practice are key," said Pullen as to redshirting or not. "If they think I need to develop more than I am going to redshirt."
Roley plans to study education and hopes to be a teacher one day along with a football coach, while Pullen plans to study sports management.
Pullen has been playing football since the fifth grade.
"It has always been my favorite sport," said Pullen, who also plays basketball and has run track for the Rams. "My junior year is what I really starting seeing it all of the hard work pay off at the role of quarterback. It was just a dream to play college football and now it is pretty cool to say I have actually signed with a school and got a scholarship. It is really a dream come true."
Duckett said of Roley, "He is a big guy that they can keep working with. he is really athletic for as big as he is. He is fast and can run. I am sure he is a guy that they will get in the weight room and try and build up. You can't build size and he has got that. I think he is a guy that for that level is going to do a good job on the offensive line. He is a very good pass blocker and from what I understand their offense is similar to the stuff we did. He will fit in really well."
Roley said Turner going to McKendree was a big factor as was a chance to play at the Division II level.
"He (Pullen) is one of my best friends now and I want to continue to play with him," said Roley. "He is a great quarterback and a great friend and I want to have four more years with him."
Roley said he is likely to be redshirted.
"I will probably help me more than hurt me," said Roley of the redshirt possibility. "It will help me get used to the speed and overall strength of the game."
As for coaches who have helped him along the way Roley said former Sullivan/Okaw Valley line coach John Bertetto, Shelbyville line coach Brad Hilbert and Duckett.
"Bertetto helped me develop my game, Hilbert was one of my favorite coaches I have had and coach Duckett is one of the better guys you will ever meet," said Roley. "He helped me develop as a player and a person which is something I thank all of them for."
Pullen said, "I have only played with Kam one year, but now I get four more and that is pretty cool. It is going to be a lot of fun."
Skowronski picked Olivet Nazarene after visiting Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois Edwardsville.
"I really love the Christian aspect with it," said Skowronski of ONU. "I thought it was a really good fit for me."
Skowronski, who was part of a school record 4x800 in 2016 that finished with a time of 7:55.71, good for a Class 1A state runner-up, plans to study Biology at the school of 5,000 located in Bourbonnais.
"The running team really fits my personality," said Skowronski. "They have a big team with a lot of nice guys and a strong team. They have some quick guys that can help me improve so that is exciting."
In cross country Skowronski, a high honor roll student, earned all-state honors at Peoria's Detwieller Park in the Class 1A state meet with a time of 15:28, good for 24th place. His time tied for the fifth fastest ever by a Shelbyville runner.
"When I started high school I decided I really want to push to run at the college level and I think I really started looking at colleges last year. I realized running at in college could become a reality when I started to get letters from a few colleges."
The Tigers compete in the NAIA Division II level and are coached by Mike McDowell, who is in his 17th season. He guided the cross country team to a third place finish in 2014 and was the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Men's Coach of the Year four times.
Skowronski, who receives most of his money through academics, was 11th in the 800 in 2016 in a time of 2:05.81 and eighth in 2015 in 1:59.98. He is to run middle distances such as the 800 and 1,500 at ONU.
"I think that running for God is a big deal to me and I would like to glorify him for what he has given me," said Skowronski. "Running at a Christian college makes it even better."