Dejazz Woods made All-Hillsborough County for his football ability, but he was still not well known in recruiting circles. He played for a small school that did poorly in 2008, but there was another reason according to his coach Mike DePue.
"I guess D.J. was a little under the radar, not because of his ability but because of his test score. He finally got a test score, and some of the Illinois people saw his film online. Out of the blue they called me and developed a pretty good relationship.
"They flew him up on Sunday morning, and he came back Monday afternoon signed, sealed and delivered. That's one of those really neat stories that happens once in awhile."
Offensive line coach Joe Gilbert, newly named Assistant Head Coach, did the initial groundwork. Getting a passing test score was a great relief to Woods, and so was the Illinois offer.
"Yes sir, it was a great feeling," Woods explains. "It was tough watching others get scholarship offers. I was kind of mad too. But they found me, and they hopped on me quick. I'm very appreciative."
Woods was winning the 220 pound division of his district's wrestling championships, so he couldn't visit the Illini until afterward. And an expected snow storm forced him to leave early for home. But in the meantime, he saw enough to know he wanted to be an Illini.
"I had a good time. The campus is beautiful, the recreation facility just built is beautiful, the coaches were awesome, I was impressed with the weight room. Champaign-Urbana is just beautiful."
DePue calls Woods a spiritual leader and says the 6'-3" athlete should make an excellent college defensive end.
"He's a good speed rusher. He'll get bigger and stronger when we get him up at Illinois. He cut a little weight for wrestling. He's got a big wingspan, about 74-75". So he's a big, tall, rangy kid that comes off the edge real well. He can run very well.
"I think wrestling last year made him a lot tougher this year. I definitely encourage my players to wrestle. I think it makes them tougher kids.
"He's a charismatic kid. When he walks in a room he lights up the place. He has a disarming smile. Just a good kid, no drama in terms of problems. He's just a good solid citizen, and he's gonna be a great part of the Illini program.
"I anticipate him staying at defensive end. If they were in a 3-4 defense, he might be able to be an edge linebacker. But that remains to be seen. I think he's gonna get up to be 250-260 and be a defensive end up there."
Woods provided more detail on his senior season.
"I play either weakside or strongside d-end. I can stop the run, but I'm basically a pass rusher. I can stand up sometimes, I can move back. I led my team in sacks. I had 28 tackles for loss and 51 tackles.
"We went deep into the playoffs. We made the state semifinals in 2A. We went from 2-8 to 10-3. We really worked hard this year. We have a lot of returning juniors, so we might have some recruits for you next year."
Woods has an aggressive, hungry persona that will help him as well in football as it appears to be doing with wrestling.
"I've got regionals this week. I won the district last week. I'll be seeded number one in regionals, and I'll probably be seeded number one at state. I'm focused right now on trying to win state. I really want to show them I'm number one."