Jack Pilson who played quarterback and defensive back at Mattoon High School, played linebacker in college this past season, competing for Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University instead of EIU, which had also extended an offer. Jack’s dad James and brother Jared had played football at Eastern. As a freshman in Bethlehem, Pilson appeared in 10 games, primarily on special teams, and was credited with a tackle against Lafayette and registered a QB hurry against Merrimack. Pilson, an Arts and Sciences major at Lehigh, was an All-Conference honoree on both offense and defense after his senior season in 2018 during which he also was all-conference champion on MHS‘s 4×200 in the ensuing spring.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: Talk about your first season at Lehigh University.
JACK PILSON: I think my first season at Lehigh was a great learning point for me. I was coming as a linebacker, a position I had never played before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I played quarterback all throughout high school so I knew the base ideas and responsibilities that defensive positions hold, but it’s a whole different thing when you have to play that spot. And going from high school to college, the game speeds up a whole lot. The game is faster paced, the players are faster, which requires you to react and play just as fast. After you start to get the hang of it again, though, and instead of thinking before every play, you’re just able to go out there and play football.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: Your freshman season saw you play mainly special teams: what are your goals for the upcoming season?
JACK PILSON: The ultimate goal is to be a starter and be able to benefit as much as possible to the team
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: You suffered an injury this past season. Are you recovered?
JACK PILSON: I’m still in the recovery process. I’m still doing some rehab and strengthening for my shoulder, but here in the next few weeks I should be back to 100 percent.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: How are you doing off-season workouts with the Covid-19 crisis?
JACK PILSON: I have a squat rack at home, but I haven’t been able to do much with it yet because of my shoulder, but dumbbells and bands can take you a long way. You can do almost anything with them, and our strength and conditioning coach at Lehigh was able to send out a couple different programs depending on what you have at home so we are still able to have a schedule and some structure in our workouts.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: What led you to choose Lehigh?
JACK PILSON: Lehigh stood out to me because it brings the perfect mix of athletics and academics together. The tradition behind Lehigh football is outstanding and the education along with it is one of the top in the country.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: Do you think there will be college football this fall?
JACK PILSON: I think there should be and I certainly hope there is. Missing Spring Ball was already enough, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it that long without some football
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: Was it tough not being an offensive player last year at Lehigh?
JACK PILSON: It wasn’t bad. I had played some safety in high school, and I had always enjoyed it. Throughout my recruiting process, I was able to expand my options by being willing to play multiple positions. I had been offered at quarterback from a couple schools and then some others offered me as a LB/Safety/Athlete. When being recruited, it wasn’t so much about the position it was about the opportunities and the place I was in. While I would have loved to continue playing quarterback in college, I believed Lehigh was the best spot for me, which meant I would have to play linebacker. But I think it will be just as fun
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: What is the best thing about Lehigh University?
JACK PILSON: I think the best thing about Lehigh is the relationships I’ve been able to build with my teammates. We were only able to spend half a semester together, but I think we were able to become a family within that short amount of time.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: Who is Lehigh’s biggest rival in the Patriot League?
JACK PILSON: Our biggest rival is Lafayette University, whom with which we also have the longest ongoing rivalry in college football. We just had our 155th meeting against each other this past season
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: Tell us about the strengths of the Lehigh coaching staff?
JACK PILSON: The coaching staff at Lehigh is a group of dedicated men. They are not only dedicated in winning games and having the best football program possible, they are also dedicated to make their players the best football players and men that they can be
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: Do you expect to be a starting linebacker this fall at Lehigh?
JACK PILSON: I think as of right now, the starting position is up for grabs. So I do think to myself that I will be the starter in this upcoming offseason. If you want to be a starter, you have to think like you already are. You need to work out like you’re going to be a starter, watch film like you’re going to be a starter, practice like you’re going to be a starter. Because even if you aren’t the starter, you have to be just as prepared as the person who is. You never know when someone may get hurt or need to come out for a play and you get thrown in, and that could be your shot to prove yourself.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: Explain the difference between high school and college football?
JACK PILSON: In college, the game is a lot faster and more complex. The playbooks are bigger, players are faster, and games are uptempo.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: You come from a football family. What advice do your dad and brother Jared give you?
JACK PILSON: I think having my dad and Jared along with me during the process has allowed me to be where I’m at. With both of them having played college football, they were able to give me plenty of pointers and tips along the way.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: What are you doing to kill time at home this spring?
JACK PILSON: I’ve still got schoolwork, meetings, and workouts, so those are able to keep me busy for most of the day. With the free time that I have, I can’t really do much with the whole COVID situation, but I do quite a bit of fishing, play some Fortnite, and hang out with my family and my dog.