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Communications and Marketing

Unique recruitment draws attention

The Chicago Tribune recently covered Lake Forest College football coach Jim Catanzaro’s recruitment of R.J. Pompey ’18.

Lake Forest’s R.J. Pompey finds home with help from coach’s wife

By Bob Narang

Lake Forest College football coach Jim Catanzaro had a trustworthy inside source during his recruitment of R.J. Pompey.

Catanzaro’s wife, Catherine.

Pompey is a senior safety and special teams standout for the Foresters. When Pompey was a junior at Warren, he was just beginning to receive interest from college coaches.

Pompey said he had enjoyed his freshman physical education class with a coach who had the same last name. Two years later, Pompey connected the dots.

“I came across this email from Jim Catanzaro from Lake Forest College,” Pompey said. “I was thinking, ‘Why would I want to go there? It’s in my backyard.’ I looked closer at the email, and the last name was the same last name as my gym teacher in my freshman year.

“I went to her and asked if she was married to the coach at Lake Forest College. She said, ‘Yeah, and why don’t you email him back?’”

Pompey did not know that Jim Catanzaro had been attending most of his games since his freshman year. The long-term scouting of Pompey has definitely paid off.

Catherine Catanzaro, much like her husband, has a keen eye for spotting up-and-coming athletes. She’s a teacher at Lake Forest High School, and also the girls field hockey head coach.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Pompey is one of three captains returning for Lake Forest College, which finished 8-2 last season. Pompey started every game, totaling 69 tackles. He was named third team All-American for special teams by D3football.com.

Jim Catanzaro said Pompey is a vital player in the Foresters’ 3-4 defense due to his leadership and the lack of experienced returnees in the secondary. Lake Forest opens the season at 1 p.m Saturday at Beloit.

“R.J. needs to lead the younger guys, teach them how to communicate pre-snap and post-snap, and continue to be a dominant player,” Catanzaro said. “He’s a guy who can make plays in the run game and pass game, a true versatile two-way safety. He can educate guys on his side of the ball and be emotional leader.”

Besides his success on defense, the former sprinter and jumper at Warren has become a dependable contributor on special teams, and a specialist at blocking extra-point attempts and punts. He finished third in Division III last season in blocked kicks with four.

Pompey, a business major, said he played on special teams in high school and was hoping to receive playing time early in his college career by concentrating on that unit.

He plays on all four special teams units, but confirmed sometimes his hands sting from repeated blocks.

“I knew I had to put my best foot forward to keep that position on special teams,” he said. “I credit (my success) to just (the) technical part of blocking a kick, knowing where your steps are and what to watch and knowing what to do in each situation.

“I really focused on the technical part, so I know what I have to do with my body to block a kick.”

–Chicago Tribune, September 1, 2017