Kenny Knight, a tall, rangy wide receiver from Detroit, Michigan, has been on the Illini radar for a while, but this weekend was the first time he got to see Champaign-Urbana. The experience was definitely worth the wait.
"When I first got to campus, I was kind of blown away. I got there around 1:00 pm on Friday. I forgot that there was a time difference. Coach (Keith) Gilmore was one of the first people to come see me once I got there. It all just began there.
"They took us to the stadium, and from then on it got even better. I was blown away by how amazing everything was, between the experience and what Illinois had to offer. It took my breath away in a sense."
Knight, who values relationships quite a bit, was immediately greeted by the Illinois family atmosphere as soon as he got on campus.
"To me the coaches were all very welcoming. They have a great staff in there right now, and they focused on the players throughout the weekend.
Everybody was saying "this game" or "that game" and how they viewed the season optimistically. The whole team echoed the same thing, that next year could be a big year. The optimism almost wants you to be there right then and there.
The facilities and the weight room especially were some of the biggest and best. They do things the right way, each player one by one, as a family."
Knight was relatively busy during the regular season, so he was not able to get around to see many schools.
"That was my first official. I'm planning on going to Cincinnati January 7th and Indiana on January 14th."
With so many coaching changes across the country, players are still trying to get a handle on what the new coaches are like. Knight spoke recently to Indiana's new coach Kevin Wilson.
"I got a chance to talk to Kevin Wilson at Indiana, and he was telling me that IU would still be strong. He wants to turn the program around right away and not waste time. Right now everyone would be even, and he'd put the best players out there to win games.
I still have a good relationship with Indiana. There's always change in the NCAA, and sometimes its good and sometimes its bad."
But Illinois was his focus this weekend. A fellow Michigan native and Illinois defensive back formed a close bond with Knight throughout the weekend.
"Earnest Thomas was my host. I never played against him, but I heard about him a lot, and we always hung out with the same people. He was kind of like a big brother to me. Even though he's a defensive player, he was really understanding to me as a receiver.
Everybody's so close that me being around him was no different than me being around the receivers since everybody hangs out. We were all there for the same reason. A lot of the guys welcomed me and made ways to stay in contact with me."
Knight had high regard for the Illinois coaches, players, and team as a whole. He not only felt like he was at home; he felt like he was ‘one of the guys'."
"The people and the program itself stuck out to me. My relationship with coach Gilmore and Coach (Ron) Zook is good. The relationships I've built in such a short amount of time is amazing.
I almost felt like I was already a part of the program, and that relationship definitely makes it seem like 'Why not Illinois?' I couldn't think of any negatives about them."
Despite the favorable impression Illinois made, Knight and his parents are being very methodical about the recruiting process to ensure the best decision is made.
"I'm definitely waiting it out. This does put Illinois in the lead based on what I got out of the visit. I'm not pulling the trigger yet. I want to soak it all in and think it all through. It'd be hard to say that Illinois didn't make a great impression on me. Illinois set the bar."
The bar seems very high according to Knight's comments. Only time will tell if any other school will top it for him.