Aug. 21, 2014
It is increasingly rare for three young men from the same high school team to to continue playing together at the collegiate level. Northwestern is fortunate to have one such trio on its current roster and Skip Myslenski caught up with the group after a recent Wildcats practice.
By Skip Myslenski
NUsports.com Special Contributor
THIS WAS THE SETTING at any number of `Cat practices this August. Out there at defensive right end was Deonte Gibson, and right next to him at tackle was Greg Kuhar, and across from them both at offensive left guard was Geoff Mogus. "It's bittersweet," the last says of this alignment.
"They're really good players and they're making me better. They're my teammates, have been my teammates for awhile. So it kind of sucks when you have to hit them. We had a practice last week, Te (Gibson) actually slanted in, and I came through and gave him a good shot. He came up after practice, he was like, `Hey, man. What're you doing.'
"I was like, `Hey, man. That's how it goes.'
"That's how it is."
HERE IS HOW IT IS, which is why Mogus finds that alignment bittersweet. Way back in 2006 he and Gibson were fresh-faced freshmen together at St. Edward High School in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, where a year later they were joined by an equally fresh-faced Kuhar. That is where they grew together, where they perfected their craft together, where they won a state championship together in 2010, and now here they are now encoring that storyline with the `Cats."It's a pretty surreal feeling," says Gibson.
"Growing up with these guys, going through high school with Geoff, we just worked against each other all four years there. All four years I always went against Geoff. Then Kuhar comes in a year later, first he's on offense, then he moves to defense and he's right beside me. It's a real good feeling to have, to play next to somebody that you've ben playing with since you were 15. There's a lot of trust there."
THE BREEDING GROUND FOR THIS TRIO is an all-male, Catholic institution that was founded in 1949 by the Brothers of Holy Cross, the same order that delivered us Notre Dame. It was once known primarily for its prowess in wrestling, but over the last decade it has excelled in football as well. Despite an enrollment of under 1,000, it won that state championship in 2010 and enters this season ranked No. 1 in Ohio and No. 7 in the country.
"All three young men were extremely well prepared by their high school experiences," 'Cat assistant Adam Cushing will say. "The group excelled both in the classroom and on the football field. The attention to detail that was instilled in them and their ability to grasp the fundamentals are great. With those key factors combined, we knew that they could succeed on this level."
THE FIRST TO COMMIT HERE WAS MOGUS, the 6-foot-5, 295 pound junior. Gibson, his classmate, had an offer then too, but here he chose Pitt since it was closer to home. He changed his mind when the staff that recruited him was fired, and now he was deciding between the `Cats and Cincinnati. "I was on him every day then. I was in his ear, seeing what he was thinking, getting on him," Mogus will say, thinking back to that time.
"Once he heard what happened with the Pitt situation, he was really on me," echoes Gibson himself. "Then I got a call from Coach Cush, and the end of the story's there."
Kuhar, in turn, was already familiar with the school, where his older brother Ben was then on the wrestling team. "I looked at other schools too," he will say. "But here, it was a completely different level of education and my parents are huge on education. My brother was here, so I was up here watching him wrestle every now and then, and I just kind of fell in love with the school. I started watching them in football, I realized Coach Fitz is an awesome coach. When I was being recruited, Coach Fitz was my favorite coach by far. Easily I'd pick him over any head coached. I loved everything about the school.
"And you're not going to beat a city like Chicago either."
"IT'S A LITTLE BIT UNUSUAL," Cushing will say when asked about having three starters on one team from the same high school. "I think when you find the right kind of young man, wherever he comes from, with us it's finding the academics first."
A WEEK AGO, Gibson and Kuhar were chatting. "I was like," recalls Kuhar, "`It's going to be our fourth year playing next to each other.' Which is pretty sweet. You don't get to play next to the guy you played with in high school very often. And then right in the five-yard radius there's Geoff playing guard against me.
"You've got three Ed's guys in a five-yard radius on the field. It's just awesome."
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