Illinois coach Lovie Smith continued to strengthen the Illini walk-on program with a commitment Saturday from Glenbard West tight end Alex Pihlstrom.
Just like Chicago St. Rita offensive lineman Jake Stover and Lincolnshire Stevenson defensive back Michael Marchese, Pihlstrom passed up Division I offers -- from Dayton, Valparaiso and Eastern Illinois -- to pay his own way for a Big Ten opportunity.
A visit to Illinois on Tuesday, the Illini's first spring practice, solidified his decision.
"When I visited up for the first spring practice, I saw myself competing at Illinois," Pihlstrom said. "I think that I am very capable of competing at this level and I think I could help this program along with the rest of the 2017 recruits."
At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Pihlstrom certainly has Big Ten size. He will join a tight end group with a lot of young talent but few proven players.
"They said if I work hard during the offseason with getting bigger, stronger, faster that would be the best way to compete once summer comes along," Pihlstrom said. "I see myself fitting as a true Y (split-end receiver), which the coaching staff does a great job with mixing up the tight ends. I plan to learn from the veterans as well as Coach (Bob) Ligashesky. I hope to compete for a little playing time in showing my skills but be the biggest supporter along the way if I do not."