BLOOMINGTON — When Joe Malinowski showed up for his first junior football game at age 8, coaches were shocked he knew how to long snap.
“Not many kids at 8 know what a long snapper is, let alone want to be it,” Malinowski recalled.
Taught the intricacies of long snapping by his father Jim, a former professional long snapper, Malinowski proved he could do much more than that on a football field while earning Pantagraph All-Area and Illini-Prairie all-conference honors as a senior at Central Catholic High School.
Malinowski is headed for a long snapping career at Illinois State, and will play his final game as an every-down lineman Saturday in the 44th Illinois High School Shrine Game.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Illinois Wesleyan’s Tucci Stadium.
“This will be my last game playing offensive line,” Malinowski said Tuesday. “Hopefully, I’ll have a lot of fun with it. It should be great.”
Malinowski is joined by Central Catholic teammate James Morris, Normal Community’s Alec DeVecchi, Normal West’s Genesis Forrest, Cameron Elam of Tri-Valley, Pontiac’s Tyler Rich and Jaden Jones-Watkins of Fisher on the East team.
The West roster features Eureka’s Jake Bachman, John Benckendorf of Streator and Deer Creek-Mackinaw’s Hunter Mull.
Malinowski will spend the fall semester at Illinois Central College before enrolling at ISU in January as a greyshirt. That means Malinowski will be eligible for the Redbird spring practice sessions of 2019 and then his playing career of having five years to play four seasons begins in the fall of 2019.
“I’m totally fine with that. It helps the team out,” said Malinowski. “It will help me get bigger and stronger and hopefully better. So my snapping should be good by the time I get there, and hopefully I can compete for the starting job.”
Malinowski has persevered through the peaks and valleys that come with the specialty of long snapping.
“I like to compare long snapping to golf,” he said. “You’ll have a good day and the next day you get out there and have a bad day. It takes thousands and thousands of repetitions to get good at it.
"Those days when you’re first starting off you’re terrible at it, and you don’t want to be out there snapping. I’m glad I stuck with it.”
At 6 foot, 250 pounds, Malinowski hopes to “lose bad weight and put on good weight” before becoming a Redbird. “I want to come into ISU looking strong and hopefully they’re impressed. I hope come spring ball they will be like ‘wow, this guy has been working.’ ”
Morris had a breakthrough senior season with 45 receptions for 1,084 yards and 14 touchdowns to join Malinowski on the Pantagraph All-Area team.
Headed for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Morris hopes to improve his prospects for a college football scholarship with a year at prep school.
“I’ll play football and I might play basketball,” said the 6-2 Morris. “It’s pretty much an extra year of developing to kind of get re-recruited.”
Morris also looks to hike his test scores while attending “a great place with great people. It will be a fun time down there, and I’ll enjoy it. I’m looking for whatever would be best for me.”