North Central College has fielded arguably the most competitive Division III football program in the state of Illinois over the last several years. The Cardinals have reached the playoffs seven times over the last nine seasons while regularly finishing atop or near the top of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin standings.
Rochelle senior lineman James Hart will be part of the next recruiting class joining the North Central football program when the Cardinals take the field this coming season. The 6-foot-1-inch, 300-pounder received All-Conference First Team recognition from the Northern Illinois Big 12 for his efforts at defensive tackle during the 2018 season.
“North Central is an awesome school, academically and athletically,” Hart said. “They have a lot of different options and paths for getting a degree. Naperville is such a cool place, and the school has a lot of great things to do. Football wise, North Central felt like the perfect place. I clicked with the coaches and players, and I already feel like a part of the Cardinal family.”
Hart spent three seasons on the Rochelle varsity football team, with perhaps his most memorable play coming near the end of his sophomore season. Hart intercepted a pass late in Rochelle’s 2016 first-round playoff victory against Ridgewood, the only interception of his high school career.
“North Central is getting a hard-working, competitive player that is going do all he can to win a national championship,” Hart said. “I hope to bring confidence and a competitive drive right away, and focus on winning as soon as I arrive on campus, and make as much of an impact as I can as early as I can.”
Hart played two ways for the Hubs, spending time at tackle and center throughout his high school career while also playing tackle on the defensive line. The senior was a team captain this past fall, starting all 10 games on both sides of the ball. Hart said his athletic abilities and his physicality improved the most throughout his time with Rochelle.
“James was a consummate teammate and a leader for our program both on and off the field,” Hubs head coach Kyle Kissack said. “His commitment to the process of continually finding ways to get better helped him grow tremendously throughout his high school career. His attitude and effort and his willingness to do extra has really set him up for a great opportunity at North Central. I’m really proud of him.”
Hart was part of three playoff teams at Rochelle, helping the Hubs rally all the way to the IHSA Class 4A State Quarterfinals his junior season. He said he plans to study sports management while playing football for the Cardinals.
“I’m excited for how much more competitive college football is.,” Hart said. “College football can be a lot more equal and competitive than high school since everyone is good, and I’m excited for the new atmosphere of a college gameday. It was amazing to suit up for the Hubs, and I’ll miss RTHS and all the memories I made, but I’m excited for the challenges and opportunities I’ll have with the Cardinals.”