T.J. Ivy always had a goal of receiving power-five scholarship offers. But after receiving two Big Ten offers during the past week, the three-star Chicago (Ill.) Marist tight end made sure he took time to appreciate the opportunities.
"It was great," Ivy said of receiving Indiana and Illinois offers this week. "It's really kind of unreal. You always dream of playing college football, but it's kind of like, 'Wow, it's kind of happened now.' I'm fortunate throughout this process that I have great opportunities now and have a lot of options."
On Monday, Indiana became the first Big Ten to extend a scholarship offer to Ivy, who also has offers from Iowa State, Ball State, Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio) and Illinois State.
"I know Indiana is a really good business school," Ivy said. "They have some new guys on the staff, and I got the offer from coach (Mike) DeBord, the offensive coordinator, the assistant coach and the tight ends coach as well. Their offense is very tight end-friendly, so I'd have that to look forward to if I was to make that choice. Then there's a lot of NFL background with that coaching staff."
Illinois then followed with an offer on Friday.
"Aww, man," Ivy said. "Lovie Smith, I always looked up to him especially when he was the coach of the Chicago Bears. It's really good to have him back at Illinois. It was humbling, and I'm really blessed to have an offer. Coach (Luke) Butkus, he's been through the school multiple times. I've been able to build up a relationship with him."
Illinois, which signed 10 in-state prospects this month, is selling in-state prospects on staying close to home to build the Illini into a Big Ten power. That sell resonates with Ivy.
"It's really appealing," Ivy said. "It just shows how they're looking for kids who are Chicago-bred. It used to be that they always got their kids from Florida, and now you see how it should be. They got 10 in-state kids. It just shows how much they're trying to hit home with us."
Ivy said he may visit Indiana on Sunday and will visit Tennessee the following weekend. While he's focused on recruiting, he's also improving as a player.
"Really, I'm just looking to step up and take that leadership role on my team," Ivy said. "Last season, it didn't really go as well. I mean, it went well. We ended up winning our first conference championship in school history. So it went well, but we didn't get to the state championship, which ultimately is the goal."