A 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker, Gillen started for three years at Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and has been timed as fast as a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash.
To be certain there is no lack of interest in Gillen. He estimated that he has sent film to 50 schools who requested it. The attention has come from throughout the Big Ten and from such powerhouse program as Georgia and Miami (Fla.), as well as from MAC schools and some Division I-AA programs.
But despite all the inquiries, Gillen is still waiting for a scholarship.
"I'm still trying to see what is going to happen with that situation," Gillen said.
The programs recruiting him, he said, have not been too specific when discussing what they are looking for.
"They've been saying that they really like my speed," Gillen said. "They really like how I…pretty much play down hill all the time…They haven't really been saying what specifically they are looking for, to me at least. Maybe they have been more candid with my coaches, I'm not sure. I'm assuming just the same stuff they look for in all the guys. Just aggressiveness, speed, strength, quickness, that kind of thing."
Gillen has likely been sideswiped by what is widely considered an exceptional collection of senior-class talent in the state of Illinois this year. At this point in the recruiting season, Gillen may have to wait until some more high profile players make their decisions before scholarships begin to come his way.
For Gillen, the recruiting picture will become more clear once he begins receiving offers.
"I don't know if I really have any favorite at this point," he said. "I'm trying to stay real objective with my decision and my search right now."
Gillen's brother, John, is a reserve linebacker at Wisconsin. A fourth-year junior, John Gillen is playing out his final season with the Badgers. He plans to graduate in May.
"He's really excited about how this season is going," Conor Gillen said. "I mean you can't be doing much better than 8-0.
"He really likes Coach [Bret] Bielema, his new linebacker coach and defensive coordinator…When you are a senior and you have a new coach that can be kind of a scary thing. He just loves it up there right now. The season's going great for him.
"I'm really familiar with that whole thing with all the coaches up there," Gillen added, regarding Wisconsin. "I think in that aspect, just the familiarity, maybe makes it just a little more comforting in that situation."
Wisconsin tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello is recruiting Gillen for the Badgers.
The Gillen family has knowledge of college football that spans generations. Conor's dad, John Sr., played linebacker for Illinois (1977-1980) then went on to play in the NFL for the St. Louis Cardinals and the New England Patriots. His uncle, Ken Gillen, was a defensive lineman for the Illini (1979-80, '82) and had a brief career in the USFL.
"Football's pretty big in my family," Conor Gillen said.
Conor Gillen was a starting linebacker for three years at Glenbard West, which finished 4-5 this season, one win shy of the playoffs. He also started at fullback this season.
"Unfortunately we didn't make the playoffs this year but it was a pretty successful season I thought," Gillen said. "Seven of the nine teams we played are in the playoffs this year…we had a stacked schedule this year."
Gillen does not have to bide his time for long, however. He will embark on his fourth year as a starter for the Glenbard West basketball team in about two weeks. He began his hoops career as a guard, but has gained 55 pounds since his freshman year, when he was 175.
"I'm not really the tallest kid, but I'm one of the stronger kids," Gillen said. "They've kind of been putting me in the post lately to bang around with the big guys."
In the spring, Gillen will once again run track, where he specializes in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 400 and 800 relays. His top time in the 100 is an 11.69 and in the 200 it is a 24.10.