BY DENNIS CHASE
TRAVERSE CITY -- Blake Goodell dreamed of playing Division I college football when he was little.
That dream moved closer to reality this week when the 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior center at Traverse City West verbally accepted a scholarship offer to play football at Northern Illinois of the Mid-American Conference.
"I can't believe it's really happening," Goodell said.
It was a quick courtship. Northern Illinois contacted Goodell in the last couple weeks and had the 18-year-old on campus for an official visit last weekend.
A scholarship offer was extended Monday night and Goodell accepted.
"The coaches and I hit it off, "Goodell said. "It (visit) was awesome. I felt really comfortable with the school, the coaches and the players. The coaches were down to earth. You could tell they are all about football and wanting to make the program better. I liked that aspect."
Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Ball State had also been in contact, but had not offered when Goodell committed to Northern Illinois.
Eastern Michigan's interest intensified in the past couple weeks, Goodell said, once the staff saw his senior highlight film.
Goodell is following in the footsteps of his father, Terry, who played in the MAC at Central Michigan.
"I kind of like the fact that I'm going somewhere else," Goodell said. "I want to make my own path."
Goodell said he's been told he could play center or guard for the Huskies, who are playing South Florida in the International Bowl.
"Blake's a great technician," West coach Tim Wooer said. "He has good size and a good frame. He's only going to get bigger and better."
Goodell missed more than a third of his senior season when he broke his foot. He said he initially hurt it in the season opener, but kept playing.
"It wasn't that bad, but over time it got worse," he said.
Goodell said his first priority at Northern Illinois is to set a course academically. Then, on the football field, he hopes to impress the coaching staff with his work ethic. His goal is to contribute as soon as possible.
Goodell, who's been working out in the weight room this off-season with teammate and defensive end Craig Wilson, is the third Titan offensive lineman to earn a Division I scholarship in the past two years. In 2008, Rocco Khoury signed with Michigan and Darren Keyton with Central Michigan.
Wilson, meanwhile, has received an offer from Robert Morris. Wooer said Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Michigan are also "really interested."