Brandon Clear was recruited by Illinois as a high school senior in Hoover, Alabama. He chose Clemson and played there as a receiver the past three years. With one year of eligibility remaining, he sought a school that offered a graduate program in his preferred major. He talks about his reasons for selecting the Illini.
"Just the University itself, the people, the environment. It's one of the top five Advertising schools in the nation to get my Master's, so it was a no-brainer from that standpoint."
The academic and athletic opportunities were definitive in his selection of the Illini over other finalist Southern Mississippi.
"It really came down to what was gonna be the best situation for me as far as school and also on the field. Coach (Paul) Petrino is a great coach and has coached some great receivers. You think of Roddy White, A.J. Jenkins, you think of all the great receivers he's had his hands on. He's an intense guy, but he gets the best results. That's what I needed."
Clear's official visit helped him finalize his decision.
"I took an official visit up here and really loved it. Jeff Allen was my host. I really fell in love with the campus. That's really what it was."
Clear's dad Sam was originally from Chicago and played for Illinois in 1979 and 1980. As it turns out, the younger Clear had met Allen previously on a visit to Chicago.
"I've known Jeff for years. I met him back when I was a senior in high school and he was a junior. I didn't think he would remember me, but I remembered him. We linked back up and just picked up from there.
"My father went to school at (Chicago) King. We went back for family, and I went over to the high school to meet some of the kids and got to meet Jeff. You could tell he was gonna be a great talent. I knew he was going to be a great success in college."
It may seem surprising the 6'-5", 220 pounder with blazing speed and great leaping ability would walk on at Illinois. He explains.
"I'm walking on for my final year. I was on scholarship at Clemson. I had a great 3 and 1/2 years there. I don't regret my decision to go there. It was time for a new change.
"My dad just retired from the military this past year, so I was able to find a situation that was best for me because I get the G.I. Bill. I could have easily got scholarships, but it wasn't about that for me. It was about finding the best fit. If that was walking on, then so be it."
He's hoping for scholarship money for the summer but will accept the situation either way.
"Coach Zook can't put me on scholarship right now because of a numbers situation. He's going through the NCAA to see if he can provide me financial aid through the NCAA to pay for summer school. The G.I. Bill kicks in for the fall."
Beginning his graduate program this summer is already proving beneficial, with our without scholarship aid.
"It was a great situation coming in early to get with the guys and start doing the camaraderie that's gonna lead into Rantoul and get everything going."
Clear is now one week into summer conditioning with Coach Lou Hernandez and the team.
"I actually did pretty good last week. I had a lot of fun even though we were running perimeters, which was something new. But it was just getting with the guys. You can work anywhere, but you can't beat working in a team environment.
"All the guys are very welcoming, they've accepted me into this situation. They've helped me along the way, and you can't beat that."
Clear also does unsupervised 7 on 7 drills with the offense during the week. Beyond that, he is working on his own to learn the offense and improve his skills.
"This summer, I'm doing cone drills and really getting into film. I'm a vet, and I've been around the block. It's really just refining my skill. Running cones, working on Saturday's with A.J., who has great footwork and great routes. It's learning from a guy like that.
"And then learning from Coach Petrino when camp starts. Coach Petrino has told me what he expects from his receivers, and I'm gonna keep on working and getting in top shape."