Lincoln-Way West’s Josh Veldman is a coup for Northwestern

Lincoln-Way West linebacker Josh Veldman’s football career started later than most, but he’s ahead of the curve now.

Veldman’s college future is set after he committed to Northwestern recently. He’s the second in-state recruit for the Wildcats in the Class of 2025, joining Lincoln-Way East edge rusher Caden O’Rourke.

Not bad for someone who didn’t start playing football till seventh grade.

‘‘I wanted to start earlier, maybe about fifth grade,’’ Veldman said. ‘‘That’s when the head-injury stuff was coming out. My parents thought it wasn’t best till seventh grade.’’

Once he did get on the field, however, it was love at first sight.

‘‘After that first year, I grew really passionate for the sport,’’ he said.

Veldman was called up to the Warriors’ varsity team in his sophomore year, when he started getting noticed by college recruiters. Last season, he had 110 tackles for a team that won the Southwest Suburban Red and finished 9-3, losing to Class 7A runner-up Downers Grove North in the quarterfinals.

Now 6-2 and 205 pounds, he’s a consensus three-star prospect ranked No. 31 among Illinois juniors. He has grown a bit and gained experience all across the field through the years.

‘‘Seventh grade, I played wide receiver,’’ he said. ‘‘I was skinny [in my] eighth-grade COVID year, and we were low in numbers. I think I played every position from defensive line to kicker to running back.’’

Getting bigger hasn’t slowed Veldman down, though. He’s also a sprinter for the Lincoln-Way West track team and, as an indication of his strength, a discus thrower.

Veldman also had Power Five offers from Cincinnati and Iowa State, but Northwestern’s blend of athletic and academic credentials made his choice easy.

‘‘I had a thought in the back of my mind that this would be my school,’’ he said.

Campus visits and a talk with reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year David Braun sealed the deal. Now he can focus on the upcoming outdoor-track season and one more year of high school football.

‘‘For sure, it’s a weight off my shoulders,’’ Veldman said.

York turns to Don Gelsomino

York has promoted defensive coordinator Don Gelsomino to head coach.

He replaces Mike Fitzgerald, who left after six seasons to take the top job at Marist.

Gelsomino was the head coach at Ridgewood in 2016-18, leading the Rebels to an 18-12 record and two IHSA playoff berths in three seasons. He stepped down for family reasons but was able to return to coaching as a member of Fitzgerald’s staff.

Now he takes over one of the elite programs in the state, one that won a combined 23 games the last two seasons and reached the Class 8A semifinals both years.

‘‘I knew eventually I’d get the itch to do it again,’’ Gelsomino said of being a head coach.

To step into a situation primed for success just makes it that much better.

Gelsomino will continue to call the defensive plays, and the anchor of that unit is Notre Dame-bound lineman Joseph Reiff. It’s a nice place to start for Gelsomino, who never had an FBS recruit before in 17 seasons as a high school coach.

Most of the staff is staying on, and Gelsomino said the Dukes’ offensive scheme — balanced between the run and the pass — will remain the same.

‘‘A lot of the program is in place,’’ he said. ‘‘The transition is pretty easy.’’

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