While watching last weekend's devastating loss to Rutgers, one thing that I couldn’t stop considering was “how do you sell this?” Trinity Catholic and it’s stable of studs drove up from St. Louis to watch a half-empty stadium file out. Ayodele Adeoye, the possible centerpiece of the defense for the next four years, was once again in attendance - seemingly looking for Illinois to provide any reason at all to switch his commit from Texas. And again, I kept thinking, “how does Lovie Smith and this coaching staff sell this?” Well, I imagine it goes something like this.
Dear Prospective Student Athlete,
If you promise not to tell any other coaches recruiting you, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Every single program that has extended you a scholarship is awesome. No matter what school you ultimately pledge your talents to, it’s a fantastic opportunity and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Any coach, confidant or social media troll is wrong if they’re telling you any different.
Of course, different schools present different opportunities, and while each one is awesome in its own right, picking a school is similar to perusing a selection of acclaimed novels. You’re going to enjoy each one, but the story that unfolds will be entirely different. When you turn on the television on Saturday afternoon, that should be as clear as day -- different uniforms, different stadiums, different weather, different conferences, different stages of building, maintaining or falling. With that said, let’s address the elephant in the room.
We at Illinois aren’t seeing the on-field results that we desire. We are building.
Within many of our young athletes we’re seeing tremendous potential and sparks of greatness, but, at the end of the day, it’s about wins. If you indeed follow your path to the University of Illinois, your story will be vastly different than if you choose to attend Alabama or Ohio State.
As I’ve stated in past letters, we’re starting a record number of freshmen and playing even more, so the opportunity to play early exists for an athlete with your talent and work ethic. But just like you’ve experienced through your high school career, juniors and seniors beat freshmen and sophomores. That isn’t an excuse for us, it’s the challenge our staff accepted when taking over in Champaign. With our guidance, these freshmen and sophomores will grow up, grow strong and carry those early battle scars with them onto the field as grizzled upperclassmen.
Now the question for you is, what type of story do you want to write?
Do you see yourself going to college and contributing early? Because nobody else has shown they’re more willing to play freshmen than we are.
Do you envision building a perennial winner and seeing crowds grow and grow, with the knowledge that it’s because of you and your team that people are now showing up? Because the Illini fanbase is starving to support this team.
Do you look forward to cutting the ribbon on a new $80 million training facility, so brand spanking new that you’ll be the first athlete to have that locker? It’ll be finished one year into your career.
And do you plan on one day walking out with your parents for senior day, graduating and heading off to the NFL? Because no other staff in the country has more combined NFL experience.
Yes, you could truly be part of a unique story indeed.
Faux Head Coach of the Fighting Illini
Faux Lovie Smith