Cleveland Glenville defensive back and wide receiver Justin Hardee made a commitment to Illinois several weeks ago while on an official visit. He finally made it official by signing his Letter of Intent last Wednesday. Hardee explained his decision.
"I chose Illinois because I thought it was the place for me, and my family and coaches agreed with me. I felt like I worked hard to get to this point, and I felt like Illinois was the best place for me."
Illini head coach Tim Beckman started recruiting Hardee while at Toledo and continued to recruit him at Illinois. He has become close with Beckman and the rest of his coaching staff.
"I feel like Coach Beckman, Coach (Alex) Golesh, Coach (Tim) Banks, Coach (Steve) Clinkscale and Coach (Billy) Gonzales are all great coaches and will push me to where I need to be. I feel like they are very energetic, and that's what I like because I love football—that is a very positive thing."
Freshman defensive back Eaton Spence hosted Hardee on his visit, and the 6'-2", 185 pounder enjoyed the experience.
"The time I spent with him was nice. I enjoyed the room, the places we ate. He was cool and showed me a good time."
Hardee has also been talking frequently with Illini defensive back Terry Hawthorne. Hawthorne, who just finished his junior season, has become a role model to Hardee.
"He is a good dude. He and I will have a close bond. He is going to push me to where I need to go. Even though is he a senior, I'm going to pick up on his leadership and stuff and get better with it."
Coming off Illinois's second consecutive bowl win, Hardee has high hopes for his new team heading into next season.
"I believe we should have a better year next year with all the new coaches and things. I really think next year is going to be a great year."
Hardee is anxious for what lies ahead in his future at Illinois, both on and off the field.
"I'm looking forward to getting a great education and being financially able, once I graduate, to help take care of my friends and family. My major is going to be either Business or Athletic Trainer; I haven't made up my mind yet. But I know as far as those go, Illinois has great education. I think everything will go great in the future after that."
"I know I'm going to love being there, and I am looking forward to all of the fan support and the atmosphere. I love playing football, and I can't wait to be playing at a Big Ten school. I think it'll all be great, and I can't wait."
Hardee was recruited as both a receiver and cornerback. But Beckman recently stated he would start off as a defensive back. Hardee shared his opinion on the matter.
"I can play either side of the ball. Whatever gets me on the field faster, that is what I am going to do. I'm not just going to be limited to one position; I will play any position I can to get on the field. I would prefer defensive back, but like I said, I can play any position they want me to. I'm just an athlete."
What will he do to get himself prepared for his freshman season?
"I'm going to be working out and getting in the weight room, so when I get here I won't be out of shape. I'll just be working out with the other Glenville players that will also be in NCAA football, and the ones already in the NCAA, because they can come back and show us some of the stuff they use."
Hardee has set extremely lofty personal and team goals by the time he graduates.
"Next year, I want to have a winning season and win a Big Ten Championship. A National Championship is also a goal by the time I graduate, but we first have to get a Big Ten title.
"For myself, I want to go in and start as a true freshman. I feel like it'd be a disappointment if I didn't. I want to go out there and establish myself as an elite player. I want to win Freshman on the Year and eventually make it to be Heisman. They are high goals, but I know I have potential.
The recruiting process is long and can take on toll on high school athletes. After many weeks of constant discussion with college coaches and visits, Hardee is relieved it is finally complete.
"I'm now stress-free! I can now focus my attention on other things. It feels great because I don't have to talk to other colleges and coaches anymore about going to their school. I know where I am going and where I want to be. I can start looking forward to next season and what I can do for my team.
"It's time to get ready for football."