EL PASO, Illinois (WMBD) – El Paso-Gridley kicking star Declan Duley’s time in high school has been anything but normal.

This year is no different. He’s graduating early to enroll at the University of Illinois this spring, where’s he’s committed to be their punter.

“The main reason for graduating early and enrolling early at U of I was so I could get acclimated to the college life,” Duley said.

His first two-and-a-half years at U-High were upended by COVID-19, but he made the decision to transfer to El Paso-Gridley, where he grew up, after family health problems.

My mom went blind in October of last year. First just her right eye then both eyes and then back to just her right eye. I was driving thirty minutes to school every day. Being able to only be five minutes away from home helped tremendously.

Declan Duley

His mom was unable to fly and so they had to find workarounds during long recruiting trips.

“[She] couldn’t fly because of her eye until July,” Duley said. “So she was on the no fly list. And I visited down in Miami, and we had to drive all the way down there. I think we took three trips down to Miami. That alone shows me what my parents are willing to do for me.”

He says he already has a taste of what it will be like to leave home after spending a summer in Birmingham, Alabama for a kicking camp. But he still says it will be difficult to adjust to his mom not being there.

Duley’s mother’s side of the family is mostly Michigan State fans, so they will have to get used to cheering for the orange and blue.

They’ll cheer when I’m on the field, I’m sure. Maybe not. It is what it is. They still love me.

Declan Duley