Hand it to Hartrup: Southern Illinois WR provides spark with big plays in comeback win

Southern Illinois wide receiver Izaiah Hartrup hauls in a one-handed, 47-yard catch Saturday in Carbondale against Illinois State. (Photo by SIUSalukis.com)

CARBONDALE — Long before Izaiah Hartrup used his legs and his left hand to awaken his teammates and the Saluki Stadium crowd Saturday, his coach had seen the impact his speedy receiver could make on games.

“Izaiah proved why I’ve been saying he’s an elite wide receiver in the country,” SIU head coach Nick Hill said Saturday. “It’s no different than what we see in practice every day. He got us going.”

Hartrup provided a spark on his lone kickoff return of the season against Illinois State, breaking loose for a 70-yard return that led to the Salukis’ first touchdown in a 35-17 Missouri Valley Football Conference victory.

“I was really hoping coach would say we could take that kickoff return out (of the end zone),” Hartrup said after helping rally SIU from a 17-0 deficit. “As soon as he gave me the signal to do it, I knew I was going to be able to make a big play. I’m just glad I was able to help our team.”

Izaiah Hartrup

On Sunday, Hartrup was chosen as the Missouri Valley Football Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.

His contributions to Saturday’s victory also included a 47-yard, one-handed catch in the middle of the field during the fourth quarter that led to SIU’s third touchdown and their first lead of the day. The catch drew a big reaction from the Family Weekend crowd of 8,618 fans.

“I felt like it was a little out of my reach,” said Hartrup, who extended his left hand to make the grab from quarterback Nic Baker, bounced off a hit from ISU defensive back Dillon Gearhart and ran for an additional 10 yards. “I was able to pull it in and give us a spark. I was really glad I was able to make that play and keep us rolling and keep the momentum going. I feel like I’ve been working all my life to make one-handed catches. That momentum really helped us.”

Hartrup finished the day with a team-high seven catches for 82 yards.

“Izaiah made a few tough catches, but none bigger than (the one-handed) one,” Hill said. “That was a big-time catch. That’s what we’ve come to expect (from the wide receivers).”

An all-state wide receiver in high school in O’Fallon, Mo., Hartrup had seven catches for 111 yards during the spring season for SIU, including a 67-yard grab against Missouri State and two catches in the Salukis’ playoff win at Weber State.

According to Hill, Hartrup has been a fixture in the starting group along with Walter Payton Award candidate Avante Cox and sixth-year senior Landon Lenoir, who surpassed 2,000 career receiving yards Saturday.

“That’s been the lineup since Day 1 of training camp, those three guys,” Hill said.

Thanks to his speed and big-play ability, Hartrup has been a welcome addition.

“For Izaiah to be so young, he’s so gifted,” said Lenoir, whose older brother, Lance, has played for three different NFL teams. “He has a bright future ahead of him. There’s more to come.”

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