Olalere Oladipo had seen Lovie Smith on television so often when he watched Chicago Bears games. He'd even talked to Smith a few times since the former NFL head coach took the Illinois job last month.
But an almost hour-long meeting with the new Illini coach on Saturday seemed a bit surreal for the Huntley (Ill.) defensive end.
"Man, I've seen Lovie on TV so many times so seeing him in person was like, 'Wow!'" Oladipo said. "My step-dad was like happy too. We're all smiling. Lovie's a really good guy. I wouldn't mind playing for him. He's a really good coach. I like what Illinois is doing."
Oladipo made an unofficial visit to Illinois on Saturday, his latest in a spring tour of colleges. Oladipo has received a lot of interest this spring, most recently with offers from Penn State, Minnesota and Indiana.
Illinois was the first Big Ten program to offer, and Smith's staff is doing all it can to make sure Oladipo continues to feel the Illinois love.
"They did tell me I'm a priority," Oladipo said. "I wouldn't mind coming here, but I'm going to take my time and weigh all my options. But I could definitely see myself wearing this orange and blue. They talk to me all the time. I talked to Coach (Tim) McGarigle who recruits my area. I talk to Coach Lovie here and there. They keep in contact me, which I like, so I know I'm a priority for them and we don't lose that relationship."
Oladipo has taken several visits this spring, including Iowa State and Northwestern, and took a trip to Indiana on Friday.
"I'm also a priority for them," Oladipo said. "All these places want a pass-rushing D-end. I would love to contribute to any program. That'd be fun."
What's next for Oladipo?
"Going ahead just taking more visits," Oladipo said. "I want to get all these visits out the way in the Midwest and then like head up to the East Coast sometime, so I have more time to figure out where I want to go. Hopefully, I can get that commitment done like in the summer."
"Hopefully, I have my top-10 by the end of the spring, and then commit mid-summer right after summer camp. That'd be nice."