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Offensive lineman Dan Feeney

feeneyIndiana University, better known for its five-time national championship men’s basketball team, is trying to turn the corner with regard to its football program.

Over the next few years, offensive lineman Dan Feeney likely will figure heavily into head coach Kevin Wilson’s plans to make the Hoosiers just as renowned on the gridiron as they are on the hardwood.

Feeney — the son of Anthony and Kim (Adelizzi) Feeney, and grandson of Gloria Alitto Majewski, a former longtime member of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago’s Board of Commissioners — is in his freshman year this fall at Indiana. He verbally committed to IU in June 2011 and signed a National Letter of Intent last February following a standout career at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park.

A four-year lettermen at Sandburg, Feeney and the Eagles advanced to the Class 8A state playoffs each season. The Eagles were 27-14 during Feeney’s varsity career.

Last fall, Feeney was named team MVP and also made the Chicago Tribune’s all-state second team while playing on both the Eagles’ offensive and defensive lines. Sandburg rushers averaged 4.7 yards per carry with Feeney leading the charge.

Wilson, now in his second season at Indiana, served as Northwestern’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 1999 to 2001. He became familiar with two Sandburg alums who went on to enjoy stellar careers during his tenure at NU. Wilson coached quarterback Zak Kustok, NU’s 2001 team MVP, while current Wildcat head coach, and Sandburg product Pat Fitzgerald was a onetime Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Wilson sees no reason why Feeney can’t extend Sandburg’s Big Ten pedigree.

“I had a couple Northwestern players from there (Sandburg) that were great for us at Northwestern,” Wilson said. “Dan’s very comparable to Jake (Bailey, whom the Hoosiers also recruited for their offensive line) with that 6-5 (height) range. We had him (Feeney) in camp and it was awesome. He was very impressive in person with effort and toughness. He’s another guy who’s probably going to be one of those inside center-guard kids at 6-5 300 pounds.”

Feeney, who also had offers from Illinois and Western Michigan, said he chose IU after making several visits to the school.

“After going there a few times, I knew that it was the place for me,” Feeney told the Orland Park Prairie newspaper. “They helped make my decision easy. Everyone who I met there was real enthusiastic. I met a lot of players, and they had great things to say about the new coaches. They all have the mindset that they want to achieve big things.”

Feeney’s rise through high school football — culminating in a scholarship to Indiana — is a testament to hard work and being a quick study. He didn’t play youth football at all, and joined the high school team when he was a freshman.

Feeney gives props to Jeff Obradovich and Kevin Clark — Sandburg’s varsity and sophomore offensive line coaches, respectively — for helping him become a Division I player.

“Those coaches did a great job because they kept pushing me,” Feeney told the Prairie. “And the more that I played, the more I fell in love with the game. I was mad when practice was done since I wanted to keep learning.”

Gerry DiNardo, a Big Ten Network analyst, has raved about Feeney’s strength, toughness and footwork. DiNardo said he’s surprised Feeney didn’t receive additional offers from Big Ten schools.

But IU certainly saw Feeney’s potential, and his new coaches are happy he’s now a part of Hoosier Nation.

“We think with Jacob Bailey, Dan Feeney and Wes Rogers (IU’s Class of 2012 offensive line recruits), we have a great group inside at center or guard,” Wilson told 247sports.com.

“He has good size, good feet and is a physical player,” added IU offensive line coach Greg Frey. “He really has a lot of potential, and comes from a great program where they’re really building some tradition. He’s a multiple-position guy (that) can play tackle, can play guard. He’s physical at the point of attack, and we’re excited about him.”

About Mike Sandrolini

Mike Sandrolini has been published in the Elmhurst Independent, Voyager Media, the Daily Herald, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Bear Report. His stories and columns have been recognized for editorial excellence at regional, state and national newspaper contests over the years. He also has co-authored two books: "Bear With Me: A Family History of George Halas and the Chicago Bears" and "All the Good in Sports." His father, Raymond, is a native of Gaggio Montano, a small village around 30 miles southwest of Bologna.