For the newest Illini commit, Chicago Phillips linebacker Amani Jones -- Champaign held a special place in his heart since before he began high school. And his mom, one of his biggest supporters, knew it when he said he was ready to make a college decision.
"Every time I think about telling my mom it makes me smile. When I told her I wanted to commit she remembered my 8th grade graduation and trip to Champaign, ever since then I wanted to go to Illinois. I used to say, ‘I want to go to Illinois, I want to go to Illinois.’ She used to tell me I had to work to get there, she couldn’t stop smiling. She said she knew it," Jones said.
Jones and his Mom
Fast forward to Jones' junior season, and the Illini were the first school to offer the three-star a scholarship.
"They were the first ones to offer, so when I got the call I was excited. I couldn't stop smiling because it was my very first offer, and it was in the Big Ten and it was my in-state school," Jones said. "I was excited that I had a Big Ten offer, but had to stay humble like I used to be. Illinois still stuck with me the whole time through the recruiting process, they talked to me a lot to make sure that they were still in my top schools, and they really just stayed with me through the whole process. They would send me pictures, quotes, it as really nice how they stuck with me."
That type of loyalty to Jones helped him develop the same with the Illini and the coaching staff. So, over Easter when Jones
"He said if you want to commit, the time is now. He wasn’t trying to pressure me, he just said that if I wanted to do something great the time is now," Jones said. "I want to do that with Philliips, and the CPS and he told me to think about it for Illinois. Easter I had a long conversation with my family and it was exciting to me the things they were saying, they liked it."
So, that was it for Jones -- the decision was made. Now, he's got big goals for his final season as a Wildcat at Phillips.
"We are trying to put the Chicago Public Schools back on the map for college coaches. As we go on, we are all trying to open doors not for just Phillips but just for the whole CPS community," Jones said. It’s really telling that coaches are recruiting us. Illinois believes in it more than some other schools. We are trying to help the CPS get back on the map, and just trying to get colleges to look at the CPS."
Phillips, led by Jones has done a great job of that -- with fellow junior wide receiver Quayvon Skanes and defensive lineman Amir Watts both notching offers from the Illini -- and two prospects that Jones admittedly is going to start recruiting to Champaign.