Illinois Attracts Charlotte Sleeper

In the Internet age, it is nearly impossible for a great athlete to go undiscovered. College sports is big business, and scouting services are sprouting everywhere to identify and evaluate athletes. But every once in awhile, a true sleeper can still be found. Charlotte, North Carolina, athlete Walt Aikens may be one of those, and he has confirmed his commitment to Illinois.

Once in awhile, an athlete falls between the cracks and isn't identified for his true talent by college evaluators. Walt Aikens is one of those athletes. His football coach William Perkins moved away before Walt's senior year, and new coach Johmar Barringer needed time to catch up with his responsibilities. As a result, Walt was late getting his video highlights tape circulated.

Fortunately, Illinois found out in time to offer Aikens a scholarship, and this week he accepted.

"I sat down with Coach (Ron) Zook and Coach (Kurt) Beathard. There were a lot of things about Illinois I really like, like how family oriented he is. He has the experience, he's coached in the NFL, so he must know something. I committed to him."

This was a whirlwind courtship. Once Illinois saw his highlight tape, it was literally a matter of days before they were offering a scholarship. Walt explains his situation.

"At first, I didn't know what was going on with recruiting. I had a couple small schools and maybe one D1 school looking at me, but there weren't any as big as Illinois. We made up a highlight tape and got it out, and Coach Zook saw my talent."

The 6'-1", 190 pounder made his commitment without visiting the Illini campus. That will occur soon, but location wasn't Walt's main concern.

"I'm visiting on the 23rd. It's not the place, it's the people. I got to know Coach Zook, and I like what he's about. That's basically all that you need. I'm gonna be with him for four years."

Aikens played multiple position for the Harding High School Rams in Charlotte, but Coach Zook has an idea where he might fit the best.

"I played quarterback and defensive back and everywhere between that except on the line. They like me better at db. Coach Zook was talking about cornerback. And I could possibly move to safety."

As a quarterback, Walt threw for around 1500 yards and 15 touchdowns, ran for around 500 yards and 5 scores, and had one receiving touchdown. Playing in the secondary part time, he added 6 interceptions, returning one 104 yards for a touchdown. He runs the 40 yard dash in 4.5 or better, has a 33" vertical jump and a 6'-8" wingspan. He is also a star basketball player for his coach and father Walt Aikens, Sr.

Walt Aikens might not be well known nationally, but the people of Charlotte know about him.

"I made 1st team defense All-Mecklenberg County and All-Observer."

Illinois fans will be interested to know that Nate Charest from Butler High School was also on the All-Mecklenberg County team. Nate is Jacob Charest's younger brother.

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