Following in the footsteps of Chris Bryant out of Simeon High School in Chicago is 6'7" 295 pound Jordan Diamond. Originally he wasn't planning on taking any visits this weekend. But he found a way to work a visit to Illinois into his schedule and was glad that he did.
"It was on short notice. Rob (Robert Gregory) told me he wanted to come up. I was working out with my strength coach, and after that I just came down."
Diamond got to visit with some key Illini figures and get a great feel for the program. He was able to look at the depth chart and learn about the system.
"I sat down with Coach (Ron) Zook, Jeff Allen, and (Nathan) Scheelhasse, and we had a good conversation about what they want to do, who's leaving, who's coming back and what they're expecting."
Diamond has a previous connection with Jeff Allen, who is another offensive tackle out of the Chicago Public League. Allen has always done his best to help Diamond, and he really appreciates that.
"Jeff and I worked out with each other a few times. He went to King. We have a decent bond with each other. We really reconnected when we met up. Nate's a funny person. He's high energy, and that's the kind of quarterback I need. Robert's a lot like that."
The prospects in attendance for Junior Day were able to see the Illini men's basketball team take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Assembly Hall. Diamond sat behind the Orange Krush; he liked the energy the fans brought to the game.
"The game atmosphere was crazy. I didn't get to see much of the game with the fans all standing, but it was pretty cool."
Lately, Diamond has hauled in some major offers, including quite a few from the South. However, he still remembers his first offer, and it holds a unique place in his heart.
"Auburn, Florida State, Toledo, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Indiana are my latest. Illinois was the first school to offer me. That was pretty big for me. I was young. I saw Chris getting his offer, and I got noticed because of my hard work and film.
"That first offer was big for me. I talked to Coach (Joe) Gilbert my sophomore year, and he told me that I'd have a scholarship waiting for me."
With Bryant at Michigan, there is a possibility the trio of Bryant, Diamond, and Gregory could all end up in Ann Arbor. But Diamond says that what's most important is that they all stay connected one way or another.
"All 3 together is possible. Rob and I have talked too about playing together. Whether it's going South, East, West or staying home. We just want to stay connected."
In addition to his trip to Illinois, Diamond also has plans to see some nearby schools in the near future. Over his spring break, he's considering seeing some more distant schools.
"Next week I'm going to Wisconsin. I think on our spring break I might be catching Vandy, Auburn, Tennessee and maybe Florida State."
With the departure of so many key players from Simeon, Diamond will be one of the key seniors that his teammates will look to for guidance. He's experienced in leadership and is ready to accept the role and help others develop at the same time.
"I'm a captain. I've been a captain since my freshman year. I don't feel any pressure since I've been a captain for so long. With Chris and those guys moving on, it'll be my job to get some of the other younger guys to step up for when I'm gone. They can get better too."
Simeon went undefeated in the regular season and won two games in the state playoffs. Always looking to improve, Diamond expects more out of his Simeon team this coming year and hopes they maintain the momentum.
"We want to get even further. A lot of people are still doubting us. But with how we worked, I think we'll be back there again. We're competing hard, and it'll pay off during the season."
For now, Diamond's focus is recruiting. With so many offers already collected and more sure to come, he has a plan for making his list more manageable so he can focus during his senior season.
"I'll probably narrow things down toward the end of the summer, after I get all of my unofficials in. I want to talk to these players more and get a feel for these schools."
Diamond talked about three priorities that will set his schools apart.
"Number one, I need to be happy. I have to feel good, and I have to be able to trust my teammates and my coaches. I need to be comfortable with what I'm doing. And third, I want to know that I'll get to the next level. I've worked hard, and I want to know that it's going to pay off in the end."
Diamond is no doubt a national recruit being courted by some of the top schools in the country, but his home state school is making just as much of an impression on him.