It’s a 10-hour drive from Edmond, Okla., to Champaign, but Samuel Fort made the trip worthwhile with an impressive showing at Saturday's Illinois showcase camp.
Fort, a Class of 2019 defensive back, joined fellow Oklahoman Elijah Fisher at the camp. Both Fort and Fisher -- Edmond (Okla.) Memorial defensive back left a good impression on the Illini coaching staff.
“I came up with Elijah because he’s a great player,” Fort told Illini Inquirer. “I transferred this year and Elijah is a rival of my former school so I knew that he was one of the best wide receivers in the state.”
It was Fort’s first time visiting Illinois and he came away with a good impression of the Illini.
“Camp was nice,” Fort said. “I’m looking for a school with great academics because I want to go somewhere where I can get my Bachelor's degree and be the first in my family to do that. But I also want a good football program because I want to win.”
Fort possesses great speed as he ran a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash, but that’s not the only strength of his game.
“I think I have the speed and the physicality,” Fort said. “I think I have a good balance of the two, which I love.”
After the showcase had concluded, Fort was called back into the football coaching offices to talk with a lot of the coaching staff.
“Coach Smith, Coach Paul Williams and Coach Hardy Nickerson brought me back into their office and told me that they wanted to respect the process,” Fort said. “They handed me their cards and they treated me like I was family and I loved it.”
Big Ten football runs in Fort’s blood as his cousin, Johnathan Thomas, is a running back at Penn State.
“I honestly feel like the Big Ten is the best conference,” Fort said. “I feel like all they (Illinois) have to do is offer and then let me come back for a couple visits and win me over.”
Illinois is the first high-major school to have significant interest in Fort, and Lovie Smith had an immediate impact on him.
“The fact that he would come into the office and talk with me just showed that he’s a good guy and that he cares for his players,” Fort said. “I have no stars and no offers, but he talked with me for an hour. He just showed me that he was someone that I could go talk to. I’d love for Lovie to be my coach in the future.”