Del'Shawn Phillips (Image by: Ryan Easterling)

4-star JuCo LB Delshawn Phillips on signing with Illini: Illinois 'the best place for me'

Delshawn Phillips says Illini defensive staff swayed him from Arizona to Illinois

Delshawn Phillips didn't think his commitment announcement would cause such a stir. But the Garden City Community College linebacker's 30-second video definitely scores points for originality.

In the video -- which Phillips tweeted at 6:50 p.m. Central Time on Wednesday -- Phillips woke up his mother from a nap, told her "got to go to Champaign" and handed her an Illinois hat.

"Everybody is all on Twitter going crazy!" said Phillips, who signed with Illinois on Wednesday night. "I didn't know it was going to be that popular. I was just waking my mom up and telling her which school I was going to sign with."

Phillips, who will enroll at Illinois for the spring semester, said he didn't plan the announcement to go that way.'

"Nah, it was just on a dime," said Phillips, a four-star recruit. "I just woke her up. A lot of people said, 'Forget producing one, it's the best one ever.'"

His mom had one issue with the video.

"She said, 'Boy, my hair looks crazy; my linen's not matching,'" Phillips said with a laugh.

Illinois had a quick courtship of Phillips before tying the knot.

Illinois offered Phillips, who had been committed to Arizona, two weeks ago. He took an official visit to Champaign last weekend. He signed on Wednesday night, telling Arizona of his plans that morning. "I just thought it was the best place for me," the 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker said. "I felt comfortable there. I felt like it was the best place they could develop me as a linebacker and go to another level.

"Just the staff (stood out). When I go visits, I don't focus on the other stuff, the facilities or the uniforms. I focus on the environment. I get around the players and the staff and what they're best at and if they'll take care of me and if they're people I want to be around. I just learn stuff like that."

Phillips said Lovie Smith and his NFL ties "played a big part" in his recruitment but also that defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson (a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker in the NFL) and Tim McGarigle (the FBS all-time leader in tackles) also played big roles.

"They both have great qualifications as players and coaches," Phillips said. "I could go in there and learn a lot from those two guys."

Phillips, the No. 14-ranked overall junior college prospect according to, will have three years to play two but figures to play a big role immediately. He led Garden City, the NJCAA national champion, with 95 tackles and added 12.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Illinois sees Phillips as a worthy successor to Nickerson's son, Hardy Nickerson, who led the Illini with 107 tackles last season, his only season with the Illini. "They want to me to be a leader," Phillips said. "They want me to come in and play MIKE linebacker. That's where I played (at Garden City), so I got a feel for leading the defense, lining up fronts, calling out coverages and reading my keys to help our defense."

How would Phillips describe his game?

"I'm fast," he said. "I'm physical. I'm smart. I give my all every play and every snap."

Phillips will arrive in Champaign the second week of January.

"I'm gonna go at it, hit the weight room hard and get a feel for my teammates and make sure I lead on the defensive end," he said.

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