Within the first two weeks of his junior season, Aidan Cruickshank’s football life changed in a positive way.
That’s what happened when the Hinsdale Central linebacker tallied 25 tackles and 22 stops, respectively, over the first two games. He finished with a program-record 131 in 10 games played, missing a Week 6 game against Proviso West.
Despite playing on the varsity in his sophomore season, Cruickshank often got lost in the shadows on an experienced defense. But he became a household name in the West Suburban Conference last season.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect to put up those numbers,” said Cruickshank, a senior. “I played with a few really good linebackers in my sophomore season and did learn from them. I thought maybe I'd get 60 to 80 tackles. I did not expect to get 100-plus. I just came into every game and did my job and played hard.”
A year later, Cruickshank said he worked on adding more strength to his frame to combat double teams and physical play. He added nearly 20 pounds to increase his frame to 190 pounds.
“I was pretty surprised by that first game last year,” he said. “When I heard the total, it just didn’t feel like that. But I’ve now set the bar pretty high for this season. I’m just going to come out and play hard again. The whole team is excited and expecting to make a run. We’ve had a great offseason and we believe in the coaches and I expect us to have a great year. I think we have one of the better programs in the state.”
Hinsdale Central coach Dan Hartman said the Red Devils are poised for another run to the playoffs, especially with 17 returnees with starting experience. The Red Devils return eight on offense and nine on defense, Hartman said. Four of the five offensive linemen, most notably Brendon Passarelli, are back along with star running back Luke Skokna.
But Hartman anticipates Cruickshank to be a pivotal leader, both in production and guiding the younger players. Due to the large amount of returnees, Hartman said the coaching staff worked more on refining aspects of the games with the players.
“[Aidan] burst upon the scene last year,” Hartman said. “He had that great first game and continued it every week. He’s like having a coach on the field. He’s always flying to the ball and making plays, but he’s also in the right spot and doing all the pre-snap reads.”
Cruickshank said he elected not to follow in his brothers’ path and wrestle throughout his high school career. He attended several football camps this summer to help increase his recruiting profile. He remains without a scholarship offer, even though he established a single-game program record 25 tackles against St. Xavier (Ohio) in last season’s opener. Right now, he’s not letting his future cloud his present.
“I’ve talked to a few schools here and there,” he said. “I’m not letting it bother me. We’ve had some really good players get late offers.”