Aggies Snag Colorado Linebacker

Coming down the homestretch of 2011 recruiting, the Texas A&M coaching staff was still looking to fill a spot at inside linebacker. It appears that the Aggies have their man. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop interviewed the latest verbal commitment for Coach Sherman and his staff

In the recruiting process, most prospects visit several university campuses and compare and contrast the pros and cons of each trip before coming to a final decision on where they will be spending the next four years of their collegiate experience and where they will play football. But every once in a while, a prospect feels so good about a school that they will commit to a coaching staff before kicking the tires and looking under the hood. That's exactly what three-star, Colorado all-state inside linebacker Leilon Willingham did this week when he gave his verbal commitment to Texas A&M without stepping foot in the lone star state.

"Yes, I committed to Texas A&M. Even though I'm not visiting there until January, it just felt like the right decision for me," Willingham said. "I want my career to go down the same path as Coach Nguyen (LB coach). He came from a difficult background to succeed at Texas A&M and then on to an NFL career and now he's a coach. He's a mentor to me."

There were other reasons why the 6-foot-2, 238-pound Denver Mullen product chose to play his college football in Texas and attend Texas A&M.

"I want to play in a big-time conference in a big-time defense. Coach DeRuyter took over their defense last year and they became one of the best in the nation," Willingham said. "I watched them stop Oklahoma and Nebraska and that's when I really started liking A&M. Von Miller is the best linebacker in the country because of Coach DeRuyter. He won the Butkus Award. I just saw myself playing for the Wrecking Crew."

Watching the Aggies turn their season around and beat the top teams in the Big 12 down the stretch was important for the inside linebacker prospect who's used to winning titles. At powerhouse Denver Mullen High School, Willingham and his teammates have won three straight Colorado 5A state titles. From the Texas A&M's point of view, Willingham not only brings a winning attitude but his aggressive style and his versatility is what attracted the coaches to the playmaker from Denver.

"My strength is my speed (4.57 forty) and ability to pursue the ball sideline-to-sideline and make plays. I also like to hit hard," Willingham said. "Coach DeRuyter said he really liked my coverage skills for a linebacker. In fact, I played some safety in high school too so that has helped my coverage ability."

Willingham had previously visited Arizona State and Washington, and he had plans to visit Central Florida along with his scheduled January 21 visit to Texas A&M. He had offers from most of the Pac-10 as well, including No. 2 Oregon and new conference members Colorado and Utah.


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