Illinois DE boasts Irish connection

Romeo McKnight is just starting to enjoy some recruiting momentum after a standout camp performance earlier this spring. Notre Dame recently checked on the three-star defensive end with a hometown connection to the program.

Last month Romeo McKnight wondered if major college football was in his future.

Wrestling at the next level might have been an option for McKnight, who won the Illinois Class 2A 220-pound state championship last winter. But the Crystal Lake, Ill., native wanted to make a football future happen. He went to The Opening Regional outside Chicago with that in mind.

“I wasn’t really recruited,” said McKnight, a three-star defensive end. “I was talking to a couple I-AA schools going into the NIKE camp. I had a pretty good camp, made it into the Final 5 and got to go against a five-star tackle three times, so that was big. Things kinda started taking off from there. I got a couple offers the next week. Then it was a couple more offers then Iowa offered.”

McKnight now has several options with more programs waiting in the wings.

Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Toledo, Western Illinois and Wyoming have all offered. Iowa has done the same, becoming the first Power 5 team to do so. McKnight has since visited Iowa City.

Others expressing interest include Indiana, Notre Dame, Penn State and Wisconsin. The Irish dispatched an assistant to Crystal Lake Central this week.

“They came and they told my coach that I should expect one but it’s a process,” McKnight said. “They’ve gotta get through the person that recruits my area, he checked the list. The d-line coach checked off, so now the d-coordinator and the head coach are up next. Now it’s just waiting.”

McKnight is familiar with Notre Dame after spending most of his childhood in South Bend. He still has a bunch of family in the area and attended several games before moving to Crystal Lake.

He also boasts an interesting connection to campus history.

“My grandpa helped architect the inside of the Golden Dome,” McKnight said. “He got free tickets to a lot of stuff for awhile. They’re just consistently dominant. I love Notre Dame. They’re a great school.”

McKnight hopes to include Notre Dame on a string of summer visits that could also include Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin. Despite the recruiting process just getting started in earnest, McKnight envisions it being complete by the end of the summer.

“I’d like to have it all over by the beginning of the season,” he said. “I’ll take a couple visits this summer and am kinda hoping to know a couple weeks before the season or something like that so I can focus on my team and winning.”

One of the most important trips McKnight has scheduled is Sound Mind, Sound Body camp in suburban Detroit next month. Several college programs in the region will be sending staff members, including Notre Dame.

Brian Kelly is expected, along with Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan State coach Mike Dantonio and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer.

Working out in front of those coaches and their assistants will give the 6-foot-4, 225-pound prospect a chance to show a skill set his junior film doesn’t necessarily spotlight.

“I didn’t really play any defensive end despite a quarter’s worth,” McKnight said. “We ran a defense where I was an outside linebacker. I didn’t get to put my hand on the ground and pass rush. I was just quick off the ball. I’m still raw with my pass-rushing moves and being able to fight hands and stuff like that. Getting to the quarterback was big at the camp.”


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