It had been more than a year since Chicago De La Salle four-star junior running back Mikale Wilbon visited Illinois for a game, but on Saturday he returned to the campus he knows better than any other.
"I have been going to Illinois probably since eighth grade when I went to one of their practices and Coach Zook was there," Wilbon said.
Illinois was one of the first schools to extend an offer to Wilbon and he came away from this weekend's with his interest in the Illini furthered.
"Even though they lost, their fans were still loyal," Wilbon said. "After the game I talked to Coach Butkus, Coach Salem and Coach Beckman. We had a 15-minute discussion and he was just saying to stay in touch with him. He said we'd fit right away and probably make an immediate impact."
Wilbon made the trip to Champaign with one of his assistant coaches and several teammates. De La Salle offensive lineman Jamarco Jones was one of those on the visit, and like Wilbon he holds several early scholarship offers. The two go into the process with their separate agendas, but Wilbon noted there is a chance they could end up in the same spot.
"We've talked about it and we like some of the same schools, so it is a possibility," Wilbon said.
Other schools Wilbon has visited this fall include Michigan, Iowa and Purdue. Next weekend he heads to Columbus with Jones to see Ohio State host Michigan.
"I'm hoping I might get an offer, but if I don't it will still be a good game - a rivalry game," Wilbon said.
Having been to multiple college games already this fall Wilbon has an idea of what to expect in Columbus this weekend, but he also has been surprised before.
"It was real surprising, but the loudest crowd I've been to would probably be Iowa," Wilbon said. "I thought Michigan would be the loudest because it was the Big House, but it wasn't as loud as I expected it to be. Iowa surprised me a lot and I'll probably take another visit there because I want to go around campus."
Offers have already come in from Illinois, Iowa and Purdue and new interest is being shown by Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and Mississippi State. Wilbon feels Washington and Arizona State could be closest to offering after talks with their assistant coaches recently.
Wilbon had a truncated junior season due to an ankle injury, but he made the most of his limited opportunities, rushing for 863 yards and scoring 12 total touchdowns in just four games.