"It was stressful," he admitted. "I saw other guys getting Big Ten offers and I just gave it all to God and worked hard."
"It was really just that we moved. My dad moved so I switched to Crete," he said. "It turned out to be a great move. We won a state championship, and I picked up a few scholarships. Being around guys like Laquon Treadwell and going up against him made me a better player. It helped me as much as it helped him. That was really the key for me. If he could have all of those offers, I knew I could hang with some of the best too."
With only a couple of weeks until signing day, the offer came at the right time for Dunlap, who will now take an official visit to Illinois this weekend. It's something he's been looking forward to for some time.
"I've taken officials to Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan. I took those back in December," he said. "With Illinois, I'm looking forward to meeting all the coaches and getting a good feel for them. I want to feel comfortable around them. That and I want to get to know the school and the academics."
Following the visit, don't expect Dunlap to drag the rest of the process out. Illinois is the last of his three official visits, and a decision will come shortly after.
"I think I'll probably make my decision Monday morning after my official to Illinois. That will the the last official I take," Dunlap said. "I just want a chance to play. I don't necessarily need any promises to play, but I want a chance to compete and earn my spot."
But Dunlap admits that hard work on and off the field, especially a renewed commitment in the classroom, made it all possible.
"Classwork is a maturity thing," he said. "I'm way more focused now and it even helps me know the game at my position. I'm more aware of position on the field, study habits, work ethic, and it all finally connected. I tried to separate myself and really step up."
And at the end of this past semester, he found that all of his hard work paid off.
"It was a huge relief," he said. "That's what postponed a couple schools. I balanced football and academics and did what I had to do."
Regarding his decision, he plans to stay relatively low-key and not make a big event of it.
"I'll probably just let the schools know and not make a big deal out of it and maybe do something for signing day," he said, "but people will know what school I pick Monday."