Dwayne Lawson knows the feeling of the few thousand prospects who signed national letters of intent on Wednesday. The Tampa, Fla., native had his big day two years ago, signing with Virginia Tech as a ballyhooed top-30 quarterback prospect.
"I'm happy for all the guys who are signing and starting a new chapter in their life," Lawson told Illini Inquirer on Wednesday afternoon as Illinois wrapped up its top-35 recruiting class.
On Wednesday, Lawson concentrated more of his focus in his books than on the latest commitment announcements on ESPNU. The Garden City (Kan.) Community College quarterback is committed to Illinois but was not announced as part of the 2017 recruiting class because he still has academic work to complete before signing a tender of financial aid with the university.
"I was never going to sign today," Lawson said. "The whole time coming to JuCo, I knew I was going to be a May grad based off the credits I needed and the amount of credits I had. I just knew the whole time I was going to end up a grad in the summer. It's not a surprise for me. I wasn't surprised or anything."
But it's still unclear whether Lawson -- who will have three years to play his two remaining years of eligibility -- will arrive at Illinois for the June summer session, in August just before the start of training camp or perhaps even later.
Lawson said he'll likely graduate with his associate's degree sooner rather than later.
"Most likely, it's looking like May (to graduate)," Lawson said. "It could end up going through the summer if I end up having to take an in-class course. But as of right now, I'm taking an online course. Unless anything changes, I'm good for May."
Lawson transferred out of Virginia Tech last fall and didn't arrive at Garden City until partway through training camp. He was the second most used quarterback at Garden City this past season, completing 22 of 41 passes for 354 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. He also ran for 188 yards and three touchdowns on 54 carries.
But Illinois offensive coordinator Garrick McGee fell for Lawson's sensational raw talent. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound quarterback is a dangerous runner with a big arm.
The Illini would like to bring in Lawson to compete immediately for the starting job with junior Chayce Crouch, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The only healthy quarterback for spring ball, which starts on Feb. 14, is sophomore Jeff George Jr., who last season completed just 40.4 percent of his passes and threw four touchdowns to five interceptions. Three-star Chicago Heights (Ill.) Marian Catholic quarterback Cam Thomas signed with the Illini on Wednesday but is expected to need a year or two to develop.
For now, Lawson said football has taken a back seat to studies.
"I do a couple drills here and there, but really my main focus is my academics," Lawson said.
He has kept in touch with the Illini staff throughout the process.
"They tell me that they're all there for me," Lawson said. "They've been here, and they're sticking with me throughout everything that's been going on. Nothing's going to change on my end. I'm 100 percent committed to the program. Nothing's changed. I'm fine."
Lawson said that no matter when he arrives in Champaign, he is gunning for the staring spot.
"Football is football, no matter how you cut it," Lawson said. "Football is football, and competing is competing. If I want it bad enough, I'll do whatever it takes to get the job -- and I do. Whatever it takes to get the job, that's what I'll do."