Football: Loyola’s Rob Dooley to walk on at USC
Rob Dooley wanted to keep playing football.
Most of the colleges that were interested in him, though, played below the Division I level.
The Loyola senior craved a challenge.
Dooley, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound safety, decided to walk on somewhere. Indiana was his most viable option until USC came calling.
Dooley got some tape to the powerhouse program, and Trojans assistant head coach John Baxter, a Loyola alum, extended an invitation for Dooley to walk on at USC.
“It was a quick decision,” said Dooley, a two-year starter for the Ramblers and Chicago resident. “That’s one of the top schools in the nation academically. That’s something you can’t pass up, even though I grew up a diehard Notre Dame fan. This is a lifetime opportunity for me.”
Dooley will be the third member of his immediate family to play college sports. His father Robert, also a Loyola graduate, played football at Yale, and Dooley’s sister Grace plays lacrosse at Notre Dame.
Rob Dooley gave up lacrosse this spring to prepare himself for USC, which has produced the most NFL players of any college as well as seven Heisman Trophy winners.
“I’ve gotten bigger and stronger,” said Dooley, who’s been working out Deerfield-based Elite Sports Performance in an effort to improve his overall athleticism. “That’s the No. 1 goal for me, to get bigger, stronger and faster.”
Loyola coach John Holecek said Dooley showed significant improvement on the field as a senior when he helped the Ramblers go 13-1 and play in the Class 8A championship game. Loyola finished 24-3 in the two seasons Dooley started in the secondary.
“He’s got really good game speed,” said Holecek, a former NFL player. “He’s a natural tackler. He’s long, and he covers a lot of ground.”
Holecek, who played college football at Illinois, said the life of a walk-on player isn’t easy. Those players aren’t afforded the same luxuries as scholarship players, including the free education.
“It’s tough,” Holecek said. “You’re dealing with a lot of egos because some kids are treated a certain way. It’s a tough road. It’s a work in progress, and he’s not going to love every minute of it.”
But Dooley knows what he’s getting himself into by walking on at USC.
“I wanted to test myself,” he said. “I wanted to see how big I could go, and if I could handle it. That’s why I chose to do this.”