Jeremy Werner // Illini Inquirer

Illini offer 'really special' Chicago Marist DL Gavin McCabe

Chicago Marist defensive lineman Gavin McCabe discusses what it meant to get an offer from the home-state Illini and updates his recruitment

Gavin McCabe admits waiting on Illinois to offer a scholarship was a bit bothersome.

"At first, I'm not going to lie, it was kind of aggravating because Illinois was a school in my state that I would for sure like to play at some day," McCabe told Illini Inquirer. "I'd been down there (for visits) a couple times, so at first it was a bit aggravating."

But the Illini offer was extended to the three-star Chicago Marist defensive end on Friday -- which the Illini coaches said was a likelihood just a few months prior.

"They were completely truthful with me the entire time," McCabe said. "They were completely honest. They said they loved me and wanted to watch me on film, learn everything about it and they were going to come out and watch and see you in April and we'll talk then. That's exactly what they did. They offered. They were completely honest with me the whole entire time, so it was really good."

Luke Butkus and Bob Ligashesky visited Chicago Marist to check in on McCabe and tight end priority T.J. Ivy on Tuesday. The Illinois assistants passed on to McCabe that they would be in contact with him soon. Lovie Smith followed up with a text message to McCabe on Friday to call him.

"I called him and they offered me," McCabe said. "It's awesome. My whole entire life since I was a kid, all I've known is Bears football and football, football, football. Lovie Smith, out of all the coaches and stuff, that's amazing. A dream of mine was to meet Lovie Smith some day, and he's calling me up and offering me a football scholarship? That was really special."

McCabe admits the "in-state" sell resonates with him.

"It means a lot just because I've grown up my whole life in Illinois," McCabe said. "My parents grew up in Illinois. I haven't been anywhere else. That's just something really special, to have an opportunity to play for your home state. A lot of people leave their hometown and go off to different states. But to stay in your state and represent your state and their football team, it's really special, I feel."

McCabe said Illinois hasn't told him whether they envision him at defensive end or defensive tackle, but Illinois likes his versatility to play both -- much like 2017 signees Deon Pate and Jamal Woods.

"I'll come down there soon and take a visit there and we'll talk more in depth about where they see me playing," McCabe said.

Illinois is the 10th power-five program to offer McCabe, joining Arkansas, Boston College, Indiana, Iowa State, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, Washington State and West Virginia.

He said "definitely Arkansas" is one of the programs pushing the hardest, and McCabe is visiting Fayetteville this weekend.

"It's going really good," McCabe said. "I like it a lot. We spent about half the day here, so we saw about half the facilities (on Friday), and then we're going to go to see a practice (Saturday), and then we'll drive home after that."

Illinois took some time before making McCabe a priority. Will it cost the Illini?

"No, not at all," McCabe said. "Maybe if it was another school, but not at all for Illinois. That's my home state. I wouldn't do that to them. They're going to get the same exact treatment from me. It's no different than any school that offered me four months ago. It's no different at all."

What's McCabe prioritizing in a program?

"Probably just the environment," McCabe said. "That's definitely something I'm going to look for in a school, if I feel comfortable there and if I feel comfortable with the coaches. It's a school I'm going to be at the next four or five years and I want to feel comfortable there with both the football program and as a student. Definitely academics too, and I know Illinois is so highly known for their academics, so it's definitely something that I look at."

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