Larry Boyd admits that two weeks ago he had no serious interest in Illinois.
So how then did Illinois land a commitment from the three-star St. Louis (Mo.) Trinity Catholic offensive lineman on Saturday?
"The key? Two words: Lovie Smith," Boyd said. "I mean, there ain't no other coach like him in any program. You got Nick Saban and all those other coaches, but Lovie Smith is the man. He's going to be the man around here a long time. I just wanted to get on the train before it took off. I wanted to be the one to say that I was here when we were winning championships with Lovie Smith."
Boyd committed to the staff on the field he'll call home, telling the staff he wanted to jump on board following the Illini open practice at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Two weeks ago, Boyd made his first visit -- a visit he had no real interest in taking. But someone dragged him to Champaign. And everything changed -- quickly.
"Before I got here, I didn't want to come to Illinois. I didn't know anything about Illinois. I didn't want to know anything about Illinois," Boyd said. "But I got here and talked to Lovie and I sat down with a true inspirational human being. He changed a lot of thoughts in my head. There was just no other option. I just wanted to do it. I thought it was right, and it's my home. It's going to be my home the next four years."
One of Lovie Smith's biggest challenges in setting a strong foundation for the Illinois football program is fortifying the trenches. Boyd gives him his second legit Big Ten offensive line prospect in the Class of 2017.
Boyd, the nation's No. 26-ranked offensive guard, chose the Illini over Missouri, Oklahoma State and Arkansas and also held offers from Iowa State, Kansas State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Purdue. He is the ninth commitment for the Illini in the Class of 2017 and the second offensive lineman, joining Rockford Auburn's Vederian Lowe.
"(They like) my size, my stature, just my aggressiveness," Boyd said. "I'm a very aggressive player, and I don't like to be beat. So if I get beat on one play, it's a next play mentality but I'm coming back to know your head off."
Another boost to the Illini's recruiting efforts in St. Louis and their second St. Louis metro recruiting win over Mizzou in as many days after St. Louis University cornerback Tony Adams Friday night committed to the Illini over the Tigers.
Boyd said he hopes to open eyes in the St. Louis area.
"Yesterday, Tony Adams. Me today. It's going to keep going," Boyd said. "I'm going to make sure I get a lot of other kids to come here because they'll love it."
"I'm going to be in their head every practice about coming here," Boyd said. "I want everybody to join the family because it's going to be a great one."
This is a big one. The kind of legit Big Ten recruit that stacked upon more and more like him will make Illinois into a legit threat in the Big Ten.
In a slobberknocker conference, Illinois has relied on finesse on the offensive line for too long now. It needed to get bigger, stronger and nastier up front. Boyd greatly helps those efforts.
Boyd is 6-foot-5, 332 pounds. Lowe is 6-foot-5, 340 pounds. Combined with massive redshirt freshmen Gabe Megginson and Adam Solomon, in a few years the Illini offensive line will look more like Wisconsin's or Michigan's coming off the bus.
But Boyd isn't just a big body. He has substance. He packs a powerful punch and he finishes blocks in the run game, driving his feet until the whistle. Sometimes you worry if big guys like Boyd are gentle giants, but he has a mean streak to him. He looks to plant defenders into the turf.
Like Lowe Boyd must continue to fine-tune his technique and footwork, as well as add lean strength. But he flashed some solid fundamentals and quick feet in pass pro as an offensive tackle for Trinity last season. While most project him as a guard, his length and athleticism at least give him a chance to play tackle.
Former Illini coach Bill Cubit wanted the Illinois offensive line to look more like a Big Ten offensive line. Lovie Smith has started that transformation.