Howard Watkins already had visited Illinois twice: for an unofficial visit this summer with his father and uncle and for an official visit in September with his mother and father.
On Saturday, Watkins visited Illinois for a third time -- just for the heck of it.
"I just wanted to see another game," Watkins said. "I love the atmosphere here, so I came on my official for the North Carolina game and had a blast. I said, 'Why not come today?' I'm not doing anything on a great November day. So I said, 'Hey, why not come see my boys again?'
"It's almost kind of home to me. I just like to see the environment, the orange and blue. I just want to see again what they're all about. I get to talk to Coach Lovie again. I just want to come up here and say 'hello' again."
The Illini, which have prioritized the Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain offensive lineman for months, are hoping the third visit was a charm.
"They just want me. They want me now," Watkins said. "They say, 'Why wait?' They want me (to sign with them in February) and be a part of something special."
Watkins, though, did not rush a decision. He originally had planned to announce a commitment on his birthday, Oct. 29, but delayed those plans. He's glad he did.
"I'm happy I didn't commit on my birthday," Watkins said. "I could just take a step back and observe things. Illinois seems like a great fit for me. I just want to make sure, like I tell everybody else, I just want to make sure Illinois' the best fit. I got a new offer from Iowa State, so I plan on taking an official there and then UC (Cincinnati). Illinois is a top school for me. I just want to make sure and see what Iowa State is like and how I feel about Iowa State. I like their coaching staff as well. But Illinois, there's just something special in my heart about them."
Fair to say Illinois is the leader?
"Yeah, pretty much," Watkins said. "Other schools got a run for their money."
But Iowa State, which recently offered, is "going to be big competition," Watkins said.
"I love Coach Campbell and his staff," Watkins said. "I just like their staff, and I have teammates and friends that are playing there and they're playing early. They're telling me I can play early there too. They're playing great competition, just like Illinois is playing great competition. You can get great exposure. The thing about Iowa State that sticks out to me is that Coach Campbell is hungry. He wants to win. He shows that he really wants you. I can't wait to get out there and see what they're all about."
One school that has fallen out of the race, seemingly by choice, is Louisville.
"I'm still getting evaluated (by Louisville)," Watkins said. "I don't get as much attention as I used to get. I'm going to see what they want to go. I still keep in contact with them. But as of right now, I think Illinois, UC and Iowa State are some of my major schools."
Watkins said he will take official visits to Iowa State and Cincinnati and then make a decision in December.