Dami Ayoola Discusses Illini Commitment

The Fighting Illini football team graduates two veteran running backs after this season. On Thanksgiving, it picked up a much needed pledge from running back Dami Ayoola from national power St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida. He discusses his decision.

Dami Ayoola has long been interested in Illinois. On Thursday he decided to make things official and commit to the Illini.

"I called them about Wednesday, but I decided today was the day to pull the trigger."

The news was well-received by the Illinois staff, players, and even future teammates.

"Everyone was excited. I think he (Ron Zook) told the team today, and I got some congrats from fellow commits too. It was just a home feel."

Ayoola spoke most frequently with assistant coach Joe Gilbert, who has a strong recruiting presence in the South Florida area.

"Coach Gilbert was recruiting me. He's a cool guy and told me what's real. They want guys who can play as freshmen. I feel like that affected my decision since I didn't want to go sit behind guys. I wanted to show them what I can do, and they're giving me that chance and opportunity."

In addition to Gilbert, Ayoola was swayed by recent Illinois commit Keith Brown.

"I was talking to Keith Brown. I remember how heavy of a Miami commit he was, and he was telling me about Illinois. My heart was at Illinois the whole time. I was going to visit Notre Dame, but I decided Illinois was the place."

Ayoola was also considering USF, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt and UCF but felt Illinois was the place for him.

Being a part of a power program like St. Thomas Aquinas, Ayoola feels more prepared for college due to the high level of practice every day.

"It's hard work day in and day out. We're coached real hard every day we go out there, so you can't take a day off. Teams try to do everything they can. It's tough but in the end you come out with technique and a lot of other stuff you can take to the next level."

Ayoola is excited to be an Illini, but he respects his teammates' college decisions and plans to let them make them on their own.

"I don't want to get in everyone else's head about college. I just want to focus on what's at hand. I don't want to push or pull on their decision."

Ayoola hasn't visited Illinois, but Gilbert visited Ayoola, which was enough to convince him that Illinois was a good fit. He'll be able to validate that for himself in a couple weeks when he takes a visit to see the campus for himself.

"I got a chance to visit with Coach Gilbert a few times. Talking with Keith and a few other people, it was good. I'll be up December 10th for a visit."

Ayoola doesn't know many of the current Illinois players, but one of his high school teammates Justin DuVernois is an alum of St. Thomas Aquinas, and he put in a good word for the Illini.

"I talked to Justin before the visit. He was telling me it was a great place, and he had nothing but good things to say. I'm sure he's pumped up about my decision."

Ayoola talked about what he'll bring to Champaign.

"I'm going to bring heart, vision, speed out of the backfield, change of pace, and hard inside running. I don't try to limit myself. Whatever I try to do, I try to do it the best. I try to not have any weakness."


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