By Drake Skleba
For the Bugle
With 29 seconds left in the Steelmen varsity football game on Homecoming 2017 at Central, on September 17, 2016, Joliet Central senior wide receiver JoJo McNair, caught the game-winning 30-yard touchdown pass, from junior quarterback Zach Wisneski. 29 seconds later, the Steelmen varsity football team won 38-35, ending a 57-game losing streak. McNair caught 8 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns and was a unanimous All-Joliet-Area wide receiver.
“It was an amazing feeling to watch the scoreboard clock go to 0:00 and finally win a football game,” McNair said. “What was more rewarding for us, was to accomplish something that everyone said we could not do. It felt great to prove them wrong. In our last game of the season, we won again over Romeoville. Again people said we couldn’t do it.”
This winter, McNair, at 6-feet tall, played center, forward and guard, for the 23-6 Steelmen varsity basketball team, who won the Class 4A Joliet Central Regional Championship. Archrival Joliet West, ended the Steelmen’s season in a Class 4A Lincoln-Way East Sectional Semifinal, 64-62 on March 8. Once again, McNair was a Joliet-area All-Area selection in basketball.
This spring, along with fellow three-sport teammate and catcher, Ryan King, 2016 returnees, RF/P Wisneski, 3B James Epting, SS Ricky Malmfeldt, IB Tom Langley and OF Johnny Slattery, McNair and his Steelmen, look to prove people wrong again, on the diamond.
A natural leader. The phrase best describes the ultra-talented McNair. Whether on the mound or patrolling centerfield, when he is not pitching, he is always doing his best to help the Steelmen achieve success. At the plate, possessing lightning-quick speed, McNair leads the area in infield hits. On the bases, he wreaks havoc on opposing defenses.
“JoJo and Ryan (King), are besides being great athletes, are winners and provide us with great leadership,” Joliet Central head baseball coach Kevin Fitzgerald said. “ JoJo never let’s down and is always playing his very best for us. His presence, lights everyone up the diamond and the Steelmen all look up to him.”
Fresh off a 9-1 pasting of East Aurora, on Friday April 7, the Steelmen are 3-5-2 after their first 10 games, of the 2017 season. A solid performance at the WJOL/Don Ladas Memorial Tournament, last weekend, where the Steelmen tied Lincoln-Way West, lost to SPC foe Minooka (7-2) and tied SPC archrival Joliet West, have given the Steelmen confidence heading into this week.
“We must be more consistent,” McNair said. “Whether pitching, hitting or on defense, we must gain consistency to be successful. Also we must improve hitting, with runners in scoring position and take advantage of the opportunities are opponents, give us.”
The SPC, which had five Class 4A Regional Champions in 2016 (Plainfield North, Plainfield South, Plainfield Central, Plainfield East and Minooka), is stronger than ever in 2017. Last season both Plainfield South and North. fell to eventual Class 4A three consecutive state champion Providence, in the Supersectional and Semifinals.
“We realize the league is very strong,” McNair added. “But I am very confident, that once again, we are going to prove people wrong and win a number of games in the SPC, this spring.”
In late August, McNair along with friend and teammate Ryan King, will head to Waverly, Iowa and continue his college education at Wartburg College. The Knights are an NCAA Division III institution, located in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls-area of northeastern Iowa. McNair plans on majoring in Physical Education and dreams of being a coach, when his playing days are over.
“I love Wartburg, the coaches, Waverly, everything,” McNair added. “I plan on majoring in Physical Education and hope to be a coach one day. I will play football and baseball for the Knights. After football, I may just talk with the basketball coach and see if I can play some basketball, too.”
“I owe all of my success to my Dad. He has been my coach and mentor since I was a little. He taught me to be a leader and to work hard. I want to be a great coach, like him”