Chris O'Connor Talks Illini Commitment

Whatever doubts he had before Sunday, participating in the Maine South one-day camp helped convince Chris O'Connor to end his recruitment and commit to the University of Illinois. The Tinley Park Andrew defensive lineman is drawn both to the football program and the civil engineering program. He becomes the Illini's third known commitment for 2011.

Chris O'Connor knows what he wants. The Tinley Park Andrew star announced Wednesday he will sign with Illinois next February. He provided an explanation for his decision.

"I went down there a couple times and compared Illinois to Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Northwestern. They all fell short to what Illinois was."

The Maine South camp Sunday gave O'Connor a chance to work directly with Illini coaches to see what it would be like. He enjoyed the coaches, and they reciprocated.

"It was very good. I got to work out with Coach (Keith) Gilmore and got to learn some of the stuff he wants the d-linemen to do. Then I talked to Coach (Ron) Zook, Coach (Paul) Petrino and all the defensive coaches. I got to see how Illinois football would be.

"Coach Gilmore said I did all the drills great and did the one-on-ones phenomenally. Coach Petrino and Coach Zook were impressed too."

O'Connor is drawn to the UI's football program, but his emphasis on academics played a major role as well.

"Academics are number one. And then athletics and the atmosphere of the school. Civil Engineering is what I'd like to do. It will be a challenge, but I'm looking forward to it.

"For civil engineering, it is THE top school in the country. That was a major factor because academics are what I'm going to school for. When football ends at Illinois, I will still have my degree which says I'm an Illinois graduate."

As for football, the broad-shouldered 6'-5", 240 pounder provided a quick response regarding his best attribute.

"My motor because I always go for the ball until the whistle comes."

O'Connor has a big frame that could put on plenty of muscle mass over time. There is talk he may eventually grow into a defensive tackle. He has no preference.

"At Andrew, they're playing me at end and tackle. They said I'd probably play the end, but on some packages I might go inside and play the tackle. But as of right now, Illinois wants me to play end. Whatever they want me to play I'll play."

Football is his main sport, but he does play a spring sport in a reserve capacity.

"In the winter I just lift. In baseball, we went to supersectionals but lost to St. Rita. It was really good for us. Nobody expected us to get that far. I went 2 for 3 in the playoffs. I came in as a pinch hitter."

O'Connor expects Andrew to have a good season this fall. Center Tony Durkin is also being recruited by Illinois, and there are other good players on the team.

"We look pretty good. We have a lot of returning starters and some big new juniors that will come up and help us out.

"Besides Tony, we have a quarterback that is going to the Southern (SIU) camp. They like him. We have a running back that is going to camps. And we have a junior tackle who's probably gonna go somewhere."

O'Connor will return to Illinois for one or more unofficial visits this summer. His commitment appears firm.

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