Remember the kid sporting the cool faux-hawk in the NFL’s star-studded Super Bowl video? There is a chance he could be coming to Urbana-Champaign in five years.
Back in 2017, University of Illinois head coach and former Bears coach Lovie Smith offered then 10-year-old Maxwell “Bunchie” Young a scholarship to play for the Fighting Illini. Bunchie, now 13, starred in the NFL’s “NEXT 100” video, in which he was seen navigating famous football faces and various locales around the US before charging the Super Bowl LIV stadium in Miami. Young had been previously profiled by ESPN and was named Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year in 2017.
The news of the scholarship offer from Illinois three years ago opened up a larger conversation around schools recruiting and offering kids at such a young age. In the case of Young, he won’t be eligible to play for the Illini until 2025. Smith’s current contract expires long before that so there's always a chance that the coaching staff that made the offer won't be in place when Young is eligible to play. According to NCAA rules, schools can't make written scholarship offers until August of the player’s senior season. Verbal offers, however, are a different story.
Young wasn’t the only Chicagoland connection in the NFL’s ode to the next 100 years of football. Bears owner Virginia McCaskey had a supporting role near the end of the video, sporting Bears gear and presenting Young with the ball before he ran into the Super Bowl stadium. McCaskey filmed her cameo at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, which led to another local highlight.
Libertyville High School’s football field made an appearance about a minute into the video, the location chosen due to its proximity to Halas Hall. About a minute in, Young is seen sprinting onto the Libertyville field to intercept a pass from Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman before holding the ball for a field-goal attempt by US women’s soccer star Carli Lloyd.