After collecting nine scholarship offers, Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier running back C.J. Hilliard decided on Thursday he was ready to end his recruiting process, announcing a commitment to the Iowa Hawkeyes.
"When I went there, it was just a really good feeling," Hilliard said. "I know my parents loved it, Justin loved it and it was a great atmosphere for our family. My parents were pulling for me to go to Iowa.
"The main thing that struck me was, some other top programs care about you just as a player but at Iowa they really care about you off the field as well as they do on the field. That really made an impression on me."
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Hilliard made several visits to Iowa City during the course of his recruitment, including for their spring game in April. The relationship he developed with coaches Chris White and Kirk Ferentz helped make his decision to become a Hawkeye.
"They both coached in the NFL and Coach White was associated with Adrian Peterson at the Minnesota Vikings," Hilliard said. "He knows what it takes to get to the League and he told me straight-up that he'll give me a chance to get to the next level."
The 5-foot-11, 192-pound Hilliard is rated as the nation's No. 17 all-purpose back, but Iowa was also attracted to his versatility.
"They said I would probably go there strictly as running back, but that I am pretty good at the slot as well," Hilliard said. "Playing slot is not an issue and I think I can help the offense in that way."
In the last several weeks Indiana and Boston College were also mentioned as finalists, but with his decision made Hilliard has eyes for Iowa only.
"Once I commit, I commit," he said. "That is what [St. Xavier] Coach [Steve] Specht has told us from day one."
Hilliard does plan to spread the Iowa vibe to other recruits now that he has committed to the Hawkeyes. One Iowa target he knows very well is his younger brother, Justin Hilliard, though he plans to refrain from the hard sell in that particular case.
"I definitely want to talk to guys around the area, but I will probably sit that one out," Hilliard said. "I don't want to get in his ear because if that was me I would be pretty annoyed."
With his decision behind him, Hilliard's full focus returns to his senior season where he is looking to take the next step in his game after rushing for over 600 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior.
"Coming into St. X I was a hard worker and I've continued to work hard," he said. "But coming into this year I have been working harder than ever. I think the results will show on the field, and I just want to focus on a great senior season at St. Xavier."
Hilliard becomes the fifth commitment for Iowa in a class that continues to climb in the national team rankings.