Trio of local standouts take shots at Big Ten football

St. Charles North’s Furtney latest to change mind and head to the Big Ten over original college choice

Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde once said, “When opportunity knocks, make sure your door is not locked. When opportunity knocks, answer the door.”

Local football stars Ryan Boe, Jake Furtney and Alessio Milivojevic followed those words and “opened the door” to a promising Big Ten Conference future over the past few weeks.

Boe, who helped lead Batavia to a Class 7A state semifinal berth this past season as the team’s starting quarterback, committed to attend Northwestern University last month after de-committing from North Dakota State.

Milivojevic, who guided St. Francis to its second consecutive state semifinal appearance in November as the team’s starting quarterback, committed to attend Michigan State University in December after de-committing from Ball State.

Furtney, a senior two-way standout at defensive end/tight end who helped push St. Charles North to back-to-back Class 7A state playoff appearances the past two seasons, committed to attend the University of Illinois on Friday after de-committing from Army a couple of months ago.

Boe’s connection with Northwestern head coach David Braun played a significant role in his decision.

Batavia’s Ryan Boe was going to play his college football at North Dakota State but now has decided on Northwestern. Gary Middendorf/

“Coach Braun was an area recruiter at North Dakota State before he took over at Northwestern,” said Boe, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder, completed 188 of 287 pass attempts for 2,977 yards with 33 touchdowns and 3 interceptions for the Bulldogs last fall.

About a month prior to the early signing period (Dec. 20-22), Braun contacted Boe about any interest he might have in Northwestern.

“It all came out of nowhere,” said Boe, who also rushed for 491 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. “I love those guys at North Dakota State, but Northwestern is closer to home and the educational piece was hard to turn down.

“I went on a visit (to Northwestern) – it was my first time seeing their facilities on Lake Michigan. Once I got there, it felt like home.”

Batavia coach Dennis Piron is a Boe believer.

“Ryan checks all the boxes,” said Piron. “He is special. He is strong and powerful and can make all the throws.”

Milivojevic, a 6-3, 220-pounder, enjoyed a superb senior season, completing 251 of 344 pass attempts for 3,415 yards and 40 touchdowns with 4 interceptions for the Spartans.

In early December, Milivojevic began receiving interest from Michigan State just days after Jonathan Smith was named as the Spartans’ new head coach (from Oregon State).

“Three weeks before signing day, I started getting follows from Michigan State,” said Milivojevic, who also rushed for 275 yards and 9 touchdowns his senior season. “They asked for my number, and I made an official visit and talked with (QB) Coach (Brian) Lindgren and others. They said they were looking for a quarterback like me.

“I’m excited for the opportunity with a new staff.”

About 18 months ago, Milivojevic received an offer from Nebraska – prior to the staff’s departure (including former head coach Scott Frost) in September of 2022, before his offer from Ball State.

“I wish Ball State nothing but the best,” said Milivojevic. “But it always has been a dream of mine to play in the Big Ten.”

St. Francis’s Alessio Milivojevic changed his college decision from Ball State to Michigan State in December. Gary Duncan/Shaw Local News Network

St. Francis coach Bob McMillen speaks highly of Milivojevic, who graduated in December and will begin taking classes at Michigan State this month.

“Alessio is the best quarterback ever to come out of St. Francis,” said McMillen.

Furtney, a 6-5, 235-pounder, caught 46 passes for 536 yards and 5 touchdowns while adding 70 total tackles, including 5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss, this past season for the North Stars.

After receiving offers from Eastern Michigan, Illinois State, Northern Illinois, Colgate, Ohio, Air Force, Holy Cross, Akron, and Central Michigan, among others, Furtney committed to attend Army West Point last June before re-opening the recruiting process in November.

“I visited Illinois (last month) and came away very impressed with the coaching staff and facilities,” said Furtney, who announced his signing as a preferred walk-on Friday morning on Twitter. “I’m thankful for the opportunity given to me by the Illinois staff and can’t wait for the next four to five years.”

Like Boe, Furtney welcomed the chance to be closer to home in Champaign.

“It was important to know that my family and friends will be able to go to my games,” said Furtney. “I’m excited to play in the Big Ten.”

Next fall, Furtney will reunite with older brother, Ben, a redshirt senior fullback/tight end at Purdue.

The teams will play for the “Purdue Cannon” on Oct. 12 in Champaign.

North Stars coach Rob Pomazak offered high praise for Furtney.

“Jake is one of the best two-way players I have ever coached,” said Pomazak.

Boe (7A), Furtney (7A), and Milivojevic (5A) were all named to the 2023 IHSFCA All-State Team.

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