Verdis Brown knows it sounds odd to most of the people he left in Chicago. But sitting in 80-degree temperature during a mostly sunny day February day in Bradenton, Fla., the Scout 300 prospect felt homesick about one thing.
"I kinda missed the cold a little bit," Brown told Illini Inquirer on Monday afternoon. "Most people probably think that's crazy. But I was born in the winter. I kinda like the cold."
Brown recently transferred to world-renowned boarding school and training facility IMG Academy -- joining former Chicago Mt. Carmel teammate and Class of 2018 Scout 300 prospect Houston Griffith -- for the spring semester to further test himself as a person and a player and prepare himself in a college-like atmosphere.
"One was because the violence in Chicago, my parents don't want me to stay around that all the time," Brown said. "Two was to get exposure to different challenges because these guys come from all the way from California, Vegas and they are a different type of breed. People also come from Australia and places like that. It's pretty cool. I get to learn about their different cultures and what they do."
Brown -- a 6-foot-5, 295-pound linemen who holds scholarship offers from some of the top programs in the country -- also is getting pushed to mature quickly on and off the field. His schedule is more college-like, with no parents around to push him to get out of bed, to go to class or to do his homework.
"It's been good," Brown said. "The biggest adjustment is just trying to stay focused and go to class on my own."
He said he's been pushed physically.
"How rigorous the training is (sticks out)," Brown said. "It's very challenging. It makes me want to work harder when you see all the guys out there doing work, when you see all of them out there doing it on a day-in and day-out basis. It makes you want it more."
Brown currently is preparing to play offensive guard for IMG, though he is getting recruited both as an offensive and defensive linemen. And he's still getting recruited hard by some of the best programs in the country. With IMG a top destination for most college football programs, Brown has received even more exposure nationally.
"I've been talking to even more coaches since I've been down here," Brown said.
"That's a huge one, another one close to home," Brown said. "They have a good, sound football program and are good academics-wise."
Brown said five programs are currently standing out but that he is early in the recruiting process. Ohio State and home-state Illinois still "most definitely" still remain near the top of his list, he said.
Illinois, which is recruiting Brown as a defensive lineman, already has sent multiple coaches to IMG -- "Pretty much the whole coaching staff has been down here," Brown said -- and has long made Brown a top priority in the Class of 2018. Brown said he noticed Illinois signed a strong Class of 2017 built on 10 in-state signees.
"I pay attention," Brown said. "They got a very good 2017 class coming in. (What sticks out about Illinois is) the coaching staff, the players and the atmosphere around the campus. It's like a very nonchalant atmosphere. It's not about all this hype. You can go there and do what you got to do."
Brown took a visit to Ohio State in November for the Buckeyes' 30-27 double-overtime win over Michigan.
"I was very impressed about how the team had composure, and the fans are something to watch out for," Brown said.
Brown said Missouri and Florida also are starting to stick out.
"I've been talking to the (Mizzou) coaches a lot lately," Brown said. "I plan on taking another visit there during the spring.
"I've been talking to a lot of the (Florida) coaching staff. I want to take a visit there, but I'm not sure if I want to take one yet."
Brown -- who said he doesn't have a timeline on when he'll make a decision -- said he will take a few visits this spring but still needs to finalize his plans with his parents.
Brown admits that while he may have gone away from home for his final year of high school football, he still is drawn to come back closer home to play college ball -- in the familiar colder climate.
"Being at home is important to me because I have a lot of family in Illinois," Brown said. "I'd like to make sure that I can get back and forth so I can see them."