Caldwell Switches Commitment to Illinois

Previous years have proven that anything is possible when signing day is fast at hand. Recruits often change their minds and opt for another path. Illinois was the beneficiary of one of those changes and was able to snag a coveted defender out of the peach state.

Darrius Caldwell, a bandit prospect from Mays High School in Atlanta, Georgia, has switched his commitment from Georgia Tech to Illinois after a visit to the Illinois campus this weekend.

"Yeah, I committed to Illinois."

Caldwell had been previously committed to Georgia Tech since August. However he explains that he was seeking a different environment for his college years.

"I wanted to explore my options and get away from Atlanta and the South. Up here it's like a family atmosphere. Everybody shows love and it's great. The players are great and treated me like I was a part of the team."

Persistence was the key for Caldwell, even after he committed to Tech. Illinois never game up on him and he really valued that throughout his recruitment.

"Yeah they let me know that if things changed that they'd be there. It was early in the season. I don't think it was well thought out, and I had time to explore my options. I felt like Illinois had better things in store for me and was a better fit for me."

Caldwell is being recruited to play Bandit, which current Illini Michael Buchanan plays. On his visit, he was hosted by fellow Georgia native and Illini tight end Evan Wilson.

"I met Mike Buchanan, but I didn't have much time to hang out with him. I was with Evan Wilson. I had a great time. I can relate to him, and we're both from Georgia and are into a lot of the same things. It was an instant connection when I met him."

Caldwell cites the connection between the coaches and the players as one of the great things he took away from his experience at Illinois.

"The banquet was really cool. I got to see the appreciation the seniors have for the coaching staff. They came to accept the coaches, and they have a bond with their coaches that is real tight."

Caldwell admits that he needs to adjust to some things before he begins his college career, but he says that the reward for hard work this offseason could be early field time at Illinois.

"My main thing is gaining weight and getting adjusted to the game speed. They said I could possibly come in and get some early playing time."

Caldwell was recruited by tight ends coach Chip Long. Long especially stuck with Caldwell the whole way through his recruitment and left the door open for him.

"Coach Long recruited me. Coach Long is a pretty fiery guy full of energy. He's the one who convinced me to come on up and see what it was like."

Caldwell sought guidance from a close family member, who gave him the encouragement he needed to make the call.

"I talked to my mom about it, and she said to go with my heart and go with what feels comfortable."

Caldwell's heart ended up leading him to Illinois and giving the Illini a late addition and a very talented player.

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