photo courtesy The Red Ledger

Illini 'in the mix' for Texas WR Chase Van Wagoner

Illini wide receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker making Texas wide receiver Chase Van Wagoner a top priority in the Class of 2018

Chase Van Wagoner laughed when Illinois wide receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker officially extended a scholarship offer on Monday.

It wasn't a sign of disrespect. The two just have built up such a close relationship lately -- and Hayes-Stoker has been in touch so often -- that Van Wagoner knew the offer was just a matter of time.

"He was just saying that I've been on their list for a while," Van Wagoner told Illini Inquirer. "He just told me that all of the coaches watched the film this morning, and they all agreed to offer me."

After the laughs, Van Wagoner gave his thanks.

"I was super excited," he said. "I couldn't stop thanking him. He's an awesome guy. As a coach, he's a good guy and role model. He's got it going on. He knows what he's talking about."

Hayes-Stoker has made Van Wagoner, who had 41 catches for 759 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior, one of his top priorities -- if not his top priority -- in the Class of 2018.

"He loves my film and wants to grow closer and have a good relationship with me and my family," Van Wagoner said. "He was really, really interested not just how I am at football, but in my as a person, my academic life, my social life and my family life." 

Van Wagoner is intrigued by the NFL experience of the Illinois coaching staff, including Hayes-Stoker who coached Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

"He coached in the NFL, so he knows how it works," Van Wagoner said. "He knows expectations after D-I football. He was explaining to me how they don't train like every D-I school. They train like an NFL program. They want to be successful in that. If they have players that go to the next level, they'll know whats going on after being coached by that staff. Him taking interest in me and being on the phone with someone from that level, it's a blessing. I listen close to every word he has to say. I try to take everything in and try to apply it to my grind every day."

Van Wagoner, the son of a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, doesn't have great familiarity with Illinois football, but he's heard a lot about it from his friend, Lexie Smith, an Illini volleyball commit. 

"Seeing her side of it and Coach Stoker's side of it and after doing some research, it looks awesome," Van Wagoner said. "I will come visit this June probably."

Illinois also has offered fellow Allen, Texas, native Carson Schleker, with whom Van Wagoner said he'd like to visit Champaign this summer.

The Illini certainly will have competition for Van Wagoner who said during the interview, "I'm sitting in my room looking at a stack of mail; it's awesome."

He said along with Illinois that Wisconsin, Washington State, SMU, Syracuse, Rice and Yale are pushing the hardest. He also plans a visit to Stanford this week.

Van Wagoner has several Ivy League offers, so academics also is a top priority. He wants to major in business. US News ranks Illinois a top-15 undergraduate business program.

"Coach Stoker told me Illinois' education is up there with Northwestern, Vanderbilt and others," Van Wagoner said. "In my household, education is a big deal. My dad's a doctor, so you can tell academics come first."

But Van Wagoner also wants to compete at the highest level. 

"I am a very, very competitive person," Van Wagoner said. "That's how I was raised. Three older brothers, we're all boys. I want to be able to compete against the best players anywhere. Going to a school that can give me both options, an amazing degree in business and competing against top athletes in country at the same time with successful team and a great coaching staff."

Hayes-Stoker is selling that Illinois can provide the best of all worlds.

"I text Coach Stoker once or twice every two days," Van Wagoner said. "They're in the mix for sure."

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