When Hardy Nickerson and William Dunkle met for the first time this spring, the Illinois defensive coordinator and Chula Vista (Calif.) Eastlake offensive lineman left each other in awe.
"I can't believe it's him, man," Dunkle told Illini Inquirer. "I'm excited. It's freakin' Hardy Nickerson! Then his mouth dropped when he saw me because I'm a little big (laughs)."
After that first encounter, Nickerson relayed that he'd be in contact with the 6-foot-5, 340-pound Class of 2018 offensive lineman.
"He tells me to call him, and I do," Dunkle said. "We talk football, and he tells me that the recruiting process takes a while but that everyone likes me up there (at Illinois)."
After another week or so, Nickerson again reached out to Dunkle.
"My coach gets a call and it's Montell, a good friend who helps out with recruiting," Dunkle said, "and he said, 'Bruh, Illinois is about to offer you. Get to your phone. I called you a bunch of times.' Hardy (texted) me to call him ASAP. I call him. He tells me about the offer."
"I'm speechless," Dunkle said. "Like dead silent."
Illinois is the first power-five program to offer Dunkle, who also has offers from Fresno State and South Dakota. Needless to say, the Illini offer is a big one -- even if Champaign is a long way from Chula Vista, which is just about eight miles from the Mexico border.
"I don't care how far it is, honestly," Dunkle said. "I want to get out of Cali. I have a job and help out. Whatever it takes to take care of my family. Hardy is the real deal, man. He does nothing but tell the truth, and he's saying that big things are coming from Illinois and he wants me."
Dunkle said about 25 schools have stopped by to see him this spring, mostly Pac-12 and Mountain West schools along with a few ACC programs.
"I really don't got anything planned out so far (for recruiting)," Dunkle said. "One of my goals was to be committed by the end of junior year, so we'll see how that goes. I kinda want to just take it all in."
Even though he lives in Pac-12 territory, Dunkle -- a big, physical road grader -- also thinks the Big Ten could fit his style of play.
"The Big Ten is the grand daddy of college football, man," Dunkle said. "It's every kids dream to play with the big boys, and I'm so excited to be able to play in the Big Ten. That's my kind of football."