Chicago (IL) Marist rising senior linebacker Micah Awodiran was one of the first in-state recruits that new Illinois Head Football Coach Lovie Smith reached out to upon taking the job. So when he got the chance to talk to the long-time coach of his hometown Chicago Bears, Awodiran was definitely impressed by the new Illini coach.
"I thought it was awesome," Awodiran said. "He's a well-respected coach with a lot of ties to the state of Illinois and a guy that has crafted some deadly defense in the past, so I was definitely excited by the hire."
Awodiran made no secret of the fact that he grew up a Bears fan, so it's no surprise that he's very familiar with Smith's body of work in the NFL with the Bears. That, along with Smith's indication that the state of Illinois would be a big focus of Lovie's recruiting plan, were the themes of their conversation.
"We mostly just did introductions and I got to know what he's looking to do for the program," he said. "He talked about (me) staying in state. I've always been a Bears fan. Devin Hester, Israel Idonije, and Brian Urlacher were my idols."
On top of Lovie's coaching pedigree, Awodiran said that Illinois has several qualities that appeal to him, especially academics. Already holding a handful of Ivy League "offers", Awodiran will likely weigh academics heavily in his decision.
"The academics at Illinois absolutely are appealing," he said. "Plus, with my sister being there and my dad graduating from law school there, I'm definitely familiar with the academic prowess that Illinois presents and it definitely makes them a strong contender."
Awodiran recently received an offer from Arkansas of the SEC, and has racked up close to 20 offers already. Another pair of schools from the Big Ten and SEC, respectively, have ramped up interest in him lately.
"Penn State and Missouri have been in contact most recently," Awodiran said, "but it seems like things will pick up more once teams wrap up spring ball and move into the spring recruiting period."