Former MLB draft pick William DuPont joins Illinois as a preferred walk-on

Former Toronto Blue Jays draft pick William DuPont joining Illini as a preferred walk-on wide receiver

Sometimes life forces us to put our dreams on hold. For Will DuPont, his dream always was to play college football, but he also was a great baseball player for Lafayette High School in Wildwood, Mo.

DuPont graduated from Lafayette in 2012 and was forced to make one of the biggest decisions of his life. The Toronto Blue Jays had just drafted him in the 16th round of the MLB Draft. Choosing to sign with the Blue Jays would delay his college football dreams.

“I chose to forgo going to Mississippi State where I committed for baseball, and I signed with the Blue Jays," DuPont said. "So I played four or five years of professional baseball. I played for the Blue Jays for three years and then I was traded to the Astros where I played for a season.”

But football was always in the back of his mind. And after middling in the minors for a few years, DuPont finally decided that a change was necessary.

“Seven months ago, I got back from playing and I was ready to do something different and move on from baseball,” DuPont said. “In the back of my mind, I knew that if I couldn’t make it through baseball, I could come back to football, and I always really liked Illinois.”

DuPont reached out to the Illinois coaching staff and in the summer of 2017, his life-long dream of playing college football will come true. DuPont this week committed to Illini coach Lovie Smith as a preferred walk-on.

DuPont -- who is 6-foot, 170 pounds and will play wide receiver -- knows that the transition to football will not be an easy task.

“I haven’t played contact football in four or five years,” DuPont said. “Football and baseball are completely different sports. It’ll be hard to get back to playing 11-on-11 after being off for so long.”

Illinois wide receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker was the first to make contact with DuPont.

“Coach Hayes-Stoker has been the guy that’s recruited me and been with me and the one I talked to from the first time I made contact with Illinois. He’s been great.” DuPont said. “I loved the school and then with Lovie Smith, that just makes it awesome because he’s one of the best coaches. Plus the school itself is great so it was a no-brainer.”

DuPont plans to major in communications and would like to pursue sports broadcasting when his playing career is done. At 23 years old, DuPont is quite older than the rest of the incoming freshmen, but he sees that as a blessing.

“I think maturity is something that I can really bring to the team,” DuPont said. “I’ve been through serious professional sports. So I think I know what it takes and I think I can help the young guys understand how challenging it really is to be a professional. I know it’s college ball, but you’re still treated like a real major athlete and there’s a lot of stuff that goes along with that. So I’ll bring leadership. I’m totally committed into whatever they want me to do.”

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