Crete-Monee's Jaylen Dunlap only had an Illinois offer for less than a week, but he already knew that's where he wanted to go, committing to Illinois at the conclusion of his official visit and announcing at the Core 6 Showcase on Monday.
Dunlap was a part of a 14-0 Crete-Monee team that won a 6A state title in Memorial Stadium, making them the only undefeated team in the state.
After a visit this past weekend, Dunlap made his pledge to Illinois official, and he couldn't be more excited about it.
"Illinois has always been a place I wanted to be," he said. "I wanted to go on a visit to see if I was really wanted there and I felt that. With the offer coming in late, I wanted to make sure they really did want me, and I felt comfortable around all the coaches."
And on the visit, he was convinced that his original gut instinct was right and had a great time.
"Coach Beckman and all the coaches were great," Dunlap said. "They welcomed me in, and the visit was the icing on top of the cake."
While Dunlap was eager to learn more about the football program, he spent a considerable amount of time asking questions that were just as important to his future.
"Visiting campus was great," he said, "but seeing a lot of the facilities was great. I looked a lot into the academics. I got to talk to a couple of the counselors and see how everything was academically. I talked to as many people as I could including non-football people to see how it was at Illinois."
While he made his commitment public Monday at the Core 6 Showcase, Dunlap made his commitment at the tail end of his visit with his future position coach and head coach and parents accompanying him.
"I committed Sunday after breakfast and when I met with him and Coach Clinkscale and my parents," he said. "We all met and I told both coach Clinkscale and coach Beckman there.
(Beckman) was really excited. It's going to be great to get there, I can't wait."
Dunlap is already looking forward to his time at Illinois and thinks he'll fit right in where one of his role models as a player has recently moved on.
"Coach Clinkscale says my frame and the way I'm built is a lot like Terry Hawthorne," Dunlap said. "I would like to come make a name for myself early, but stay humble, and come in and help us get to a Big Ten Championship."
Some fans have compared Dunlap's game to the Black Cat here and there, and Dunlap hopes he can be a playmaker at Illinois.
"I watched Terry a lot throughout his Illinois career," he said. "He's actually kind of the reason I wore #1 in high school."
Dunlap is a big, physical corner who plays with a bit of an edge and aggressiveness. So of course he sees himself built for the Big Ten.
"My tackling ability is something the coaches like," he said. "My coverage ability and my length. I can go up against some of the bigger receivers in the Big Ten and match up well."
But now with a state championship to his name, his commitment out of the way, and signing day just around the corner, Dunlap is ready to get to work in all facets of his game and his academics.
"I want to get bigger and stronger. I want to be physically and mentally ready to compete," he said. "And of course I'm going to fight off senioritis and really finish strong in the classroom."