Daniel Helm attended Friday Night Lights summer camp at Illinois, and he joined his Glenwood High School teammates in a 7-on-7 competition. Both were preceded by the Nike camp in early June. Playing against top athletes opened his eyes to possibilities.
"I really enjoyed it. It was fun getting to see some other competition and offers that were extended to other guys. And getting to see how I did against linebackers. That Clifton (Garrett) kid was pretty good. It was exciting to go against him."
Illini coach Tim Beckman ended each UI camp with a special opportunity for those who performed best. He called it "Last Play Of The World," where an offensive player ran a pass route against a defender. Helm was chosen for one such play.
"That was honoring actually, seeing they thought so highly of me at the moment. I know that can also fall, seeing all these other kids. I'm trying to keep a level head."
He arrived early enough to the Friday camp to see some of the campus and athletic facilities. And he got better acquainted with his recruiting coach Billy Gonzales and the UI's tight end coach Alex Golesh.
"Coach Gonzales gave me a whole tour. I met Coach Golesh, and went through some film with him. I was really excited. I really liked the coaches. Coach Beckman is a nice guy."
Helm expanded on Golesh and Gonzales.
"I liked Coach Golesh a lot. He's very real, and I appreciate that. He told me what's up and what I might expect if I were to come. I really appreciate that. It means a lot to me.
"I liked Coach Gonzales a lot too. Very nice guy. He obviously has experience, being at LSU and Florida. It's a very good coaching staff."
The 6'-4", 220 pounder was asked if he is considering Illinois.
"For sure. I'm new to the process, so I don't know exactly what I'm looking for at the moment. Illinois's offer was amazing, and it's an amazing school. I'll keep them on my list for sure. Illinois is a great school, and I'm definitely considering it."
Helm, who feels his best trait is his pass-catching ability, realizes there is still plenty to learn and improve upon.
"I need to work on some strength, for sure, and getting bigger for the blocking positions. I may need to work some on route running. I also want to work on some foot speed. I know I need to work on the back half of my forty.
"My explosion is okay, but I can always get better at that. So I'm just working all-around to try to become a better athlete."
Illinois is his only offer so far, but several other schools are keeping in touch.
"Wisconsin, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Michigan, and Minnesota are all schools that have talked to me. Oregon sent me a questionnaire as well. The schools most interested right now are Illinois and Wisconsin."
What is he looking for in a college?
"The style of play is very important, as well as the coaches' characters. I'm also looking for coaches that are known for helping their players get to the next level in the sport."
Academics is important to him. Helm is another of several 2014 prospects who may favor Engineering as a college major.
"I'm not completely sure yet. I'm looking into the Engineering field because I think I would enjoy that. I've got to talk to my dad about this to see what all is out there."
Have the Illini placed themselves in a favorable position in his recruitment?
"I think their football program is definitely on the rise. I'm excited to see what coach Beckman does with the team. I like the coaching staff. The school itself is excellent. I also know their engineering program is phenomenal, so that's a big plus.
"Illinois is my only offer at this time and there are many great things about the school. But at this point I don't really have any favorites considering I have two years of high school left."
Helm hopes his high school season goes at least as well as last fall.
"It went pretty well. We finished 10-2 and made it to the 5-A quarterfinals, where we lost to Sacred Heart Griffin by 15. We lost to them in our first game of the season as well. It was a big season for me as well because it was my first full season of varsity football. I felt that I improved a lot."