Dondi Kirby Impressed With Illini On Visit

The Fighting Illini football team continues to venture into Pennsylvania for football recruiting prospects. Among the top high school programs in the Western part of the state is Gateway in Monroeville. Two of their top performers visited the UI this past weekend. Defensive back prospect Dondi Kirby had a great time on campus.

Dondi Kirby is a four-star defensive back who is being recruited by some of the top schools in the country. He visited Illinois this past weekend and shared his thoughts.

"The whole visit was lovely. I came in Friday. The first thing we did was, we all met at the field and then went out to eat. After that, we spent time with the players and met our hosts. Supo Sanni the safety and Mike Buchanan were my hosts for the weekend."

"The whole experience was a great atmosphere. I feel so comfortable with the coaches, it was like family. That's what I was looking for. They pretty much showed me everything."

Illini running back coach DeAndre Smith is his primary recruiter, and Kirby thinks highly of him.

"He's a great person. I feel so comfortable with him, he's like an uncle to me."

Kirby also liked what he heard from defensive coordinator and secondary coach Vic Koenning about the nature of the Illini defense.

"It's a good defense. They play a lot of different formations and checks. They play a Bandit and a field corner and boundary corner. It seemed perfect to me."

What position did he say you might play in college?

"Safety or corner. I pretty much like the corner position, but whatever gets me on the field. I'm good at both."

Kirby had a devastating setback before the start of his senior season. He had ACL surgery and missed the entire season. Fortunately, it didn't hurt his national rankings.

"Yeah, it bothered me. But I never left my position since the injury. I never dropped in the rankings since my injury. So it's no big deal."

Did any colleges lose interest as a result.

"They all were concerned, but no one dropped their scholarship offers."

On a personal level, the injury was tough to take. His team needed him.

"Yeah, I don't even have words to explain it. I was pretty much the "X" factor on both offense and defense. Our game plan was really built around me.

"When I got hurt, we had pretty much a new offensive line. And we had a sophomore quarterback who's going to be top 3 in the nation by the time he's a senior. So we were sort of like a rebuilding team."

Of course, there's always a silver lining behind every dark cloud. The temporary physical setback helped Kirby grow as a person.

"Everything happens for a reason. It really had me look at life in a different way. I always took everything for granted. But this reminded me that every play could be my last, and I have to do my best and enjoy it."

Kirby is just beginning the visitation process.

"That was my first official visit. I go to Iowa this week. And I go to USC and Maryland in January. I don't have a time, it's whenever I decide."

Gateway linebacker Armstead Williams visited also. It appears some lucky college may obtain the services of both star players.

"He thought it was great too. He actually convinced me to put off one of my visits because he said he wanted to go up there. We're really looking forward to going to the same school. If it doesn't work out that way it's unfortunate, but that's what we plan on doing."

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