Dexter McDonald traveled from Kansas City with Nathan Scheelhaase to take in the Illinois spring game, and he liked what he saw. He returned last weekend for the Nike camp, bringing along his parents to check out the school.
"I had already seen the campus, so I came in Friday pretty much to let my parents get a feel of it," McDonald explained. "They wanted to meet the coaches. It's a six hour drive, so my parents wanted to see why it is that I favor them. I like them alot, so...
"They wanted to see the academics. They wanted to see that the coaches are people people, which they are. They told my parents in the end what it comes down to is people."
So what was the verdict?
"My parents liked everything about it. They don't mind the 6 hour drive."Does that mean Illinois leads for your services at this time?
"I would say so I guess."
The 6'-2", 190 pound defensive back is growing rapidly as a football player. He is making up for his lack of experience through hard work.
"I just started playing high school football my junior year. Being that was my first year playing, I think that with the great coaches around me and going to these camps, there's a lot more room for me to improve.
"I'm a hard worker, and I think that the more I see, the more I want, want, want. I can always get better. At the end of the day, there's never too much you can learn about any sport you play. I think that I can always pick up something new every day, keep working harder.
"I've never been too good for anything. I just want to keep working to get better at my craft. I think my best attribute is my work ethic."
He learned a lot during the Nike camp Saturday.
"I thought the camp was really good. They had some pretty good defensive back coaches who had played on a D-1 college football field, some who played in the NFL, and some who coached high school. They all brought something to the table for every corner there.
"I learned a couple new things I can take back to my school and share with the other defensive backs on my team. There were a few techniques that can help me out in the long run."
He also made a positive impression on the experts in attendance. More than one complimented him on his speed, hip movement, quick acceleration and ability to change directions quickly. They felt he could play either cornerback or safety. He was surprised to hear about the positive publicity, but he agreed with the assessment.
"Yes sir, I would agree with that. I ran track this season. I did pretty well. My events didn't make it to state, but I did pretty well. I ran the 100, and I ran the 4 by 100 relay. I ran a 10.9 100."
McDonald explains why he didn't play football until his junior year.
"I've played basketball since I was like 6 years old. I always had it in the back of my mind to be a basketball player. I was just focusing on basketball.
"I was playing around in gym class one day, and a few of my friends said you should come out for football. I said no, I just wanted to concentrate on basketball. But I ended up in a summer weight program and just getting a feel for football.
"The coach is an excellent coach, and all the great people around me, I said I'd try it. It was kind of tough at the beginning, but I was definitely able to use my athletic ability to stay up with everybody else."
His lack of notoriety has limited his scholarship offers up to now. Only Illinois and Kansas have offered so far. Of course, that could change once schools learn about his success at the Nike camp.
"As far as other schools that are interested in me, I've gotten calls from Nebraska, they invited me to their camp, Wisconsin's been writing me to come to camp. So has Iowa, and I've been invited to the OU (Oklahoma) camp.
"I don't know whether I will attend any of the camps because it's a lot of time out of my schedule, and a lot of time my parents have to take off to take me there."
With the lack of previous publicity, limited time to attend summer camps, and his close connection to Scheelhaase, Illinois may be in the driver's seat to secure his commitment. But he says Scheelhaase isn't trying to force the Illini on him, and he will make up his own mind.
"He hasn't been putting pressure on me. I knows I'll make a smart decision. He kind of tells me that's where I should be. Just kind of throw a little hint about it."
The intelligent, well-spoken McDonald plans for a college major in Sports Management. He says his high school team should be good again this fall.
"Rockhurst should be good this year. We've been counting on Nathan for a few years, but we're gonna try to fill that position as best as we can."