"First, when you look at a school you look at academics. Illinois is a great academic school. And then I've been to Illinois several times, and I began to feel very comfortable with the recruiting process and getting to know the coaching staff a little bit more. That made the decision a lot easier."
The similarities between his high school team and Illinois are obvious, even down to having orange in their colors.
"The offense they run there is real similar to what we do at Wheaton South. Coach (Ron) Muhitch talked to me about how it would be a good offensive fit for me because they do things that he taught here. He thought it was a real good decision. He helped me a ton throughout the process. That made me even more comfortable with the decision."
O'Toole made a great impression at an Illinois one-day camp last summer, but new quarterback coach Jeff Brohm wasn't around to see him then. Fortunately, a trip to the high school in May gave Brohm the information he needed.
"Coach Brohm was able to come up and watch me throw to a couple buddies. He told me he liked what he saw, and he'd let me know. Coach (Ron) Zook was in Iraq at the time, so he had to talk to him first. But it was a good thing he was able to see me. That's why I didn't need to attend a one-day camp."
That observation shot O'Toole up the Illini recruiting board.
"He said I was their #1 guy, and that's what I really wanted to hear. It made me feel comfortable with my decision. I feel better about what I can contribute to the program."
O'Toole splits his summers between football and basketball. He is bigger than last year, but his future is football.
"I'm 6'-3", 215. I hope I'm still growing. The last time I went to the doctor, they said my growth plates were still open. So maybe I can still squeeze out another inch or two."
O'Toole led WWS to the Illini 7 on 7 championship June 19. Most noticeable was how relaxed he was on the field. He picked apart every opposing defense with ease.
"Definitely knowing the offense helps. But also Coach Muhitch coaches us up so well. We're a very well-coached team. The way he teaches makes it a lot easier on all of us. It's not that hard throwing to open receivers. Having a great receiver corps makes it that much easier. We've played 4,5, 6 years together."
He admits he is not as relaxed when a defense can rush the passer.
"Probably not. Definitely not if I'm getting a lot of pressure. That's something I want to work on, being relaxed with I get pressure during games. Last year I wanted to pull the ball down and run. But I think having that year under my belt will help me be more comfortable in the pocket."
O'Toole has a good arm and can make all the throws. And he throws a catchable ball. His tight spiral has improved over time.
"Yeah, I'm throwing that more and more. I think that just comes from practice. I'm sure I wasn't perfect every time. Coach Muhitch gets after me a lot if I don't throw a tight spiral. He's definitely a great coach to play under because he wants excellence. And he keeps getting on you until he gets it."
Playing with a bad leg, O'Toole completed a gutty performance in leading the Tigers to the Illinois Class 7A Championship last November in Memorial Stadium in a 2 overtime victory over Glenbard West. He believes his team can repeat.
"Yeah, that's our goal every year, especially with all the talent we have. We have a lot of returners coming back. We're definitely hoping we can make a big run this year. It's tough every year. There's always great teams in 7A. We think we can pull it together."
The WWS coach will not tolerate complacency.
"Our coach won't let that happen. That's why he's such a good coach. Our deal is to emphasize working hard. Make every day better than yesterday. If you're not getting better, then you're getting worse."
The talented youngster wants top athletes to join him at Illinois, and he will work to help that cause.
"There are a couple of kids with offers who I actually know personally around the area. So I'll give them a shout out. Tell them to give a close look to Illinois because it's a good program. And then as the process goes on and I learn about other players, I'll definitely reach out to them."
Illini recruiting will be enhanced with some early victories this fall. O'Toole believes that can happen.
"I was talking to Coach (Paul) Petrino and Coach Brohm, and they believe they're gonna get some wins this year. It helps with a new coaching staff to get wins right off the bat."
Whatever doubts O'Toole might have had, Illini coaches have provided reassurance during the process.
"I think the coaching staff brings in a whole new perspective. I know, based on what they did in the past, they can get the job done. It's definitely a plus."