During the recruiting process, his brother Dan never even pitched the Wildcats program. Dan said he wanted the decision to be Tommy's, and Tommy's alone. The appeal spoke for itself.
Tommy Vitale decided almost immediately. The unranked outside linebacker from Wheaton (Ill.) Warrenville South HS watched NU's open spring drills and then told Fitzgerald of his commitment. He became the second NU pledge this week.
"I just made the best decision of my life," Vitale told PurpleWildcats.com this afternoon. "Pretty soon into the visit, I felt like this place was going to be home. I had a gut feeling this is going to be the right place."
Although his brother never tried to influence him, Tommy felt as though the "family" process worked in NU's favor. The Wildcats continue to close on local recruits—especially the under-recruited ones.
"It's the comfort I felt around the guys, the coaches and the fact that it's 40 minutes away from home," he said. "My family is a huge part of it. They can always come to the games."
A rare unranked commitment, Vitale is hardly worried about his ability to make an impact. It's fair: Dan only earned two stars in the Scout.com rankings but earned the starting superback position in his freshman year.
"I've never looked at the ratings," he said. "I've never been for that. I know what I can do, and these coaches have seen what I can do. They know that I'm a hard worker and I'm willing to do anything to get on the field."
NU has built important depth at linebacker, with Vitale and three-star MLB Nathan Fox joining the program this week. It was a perfect reflection of their recruiting tactics, with one from Illinois and the other from Texas.
As the class begins to take shape—the year following a disappointing season—no one is worried about the team direction.
"The only way I see the program going is forward," Vitale said. "They've got a lot of great recruits and talent there. The program is constantly improving and I think it'll be at the top soon."