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Ottawa senior Michael Hermosillo (center) and his parents, Krysta and Gilbert, are all smiles during Hermosillo’s signing ceremony Wednesday at Ottawa Township High School. The 2012 NewsTribune Football Player of the Year inked a National Letter of Intent to suit up for the University of Illinois on full scholarship.
OTTAWA — Ottawa senior Michael Hermosillo had plenty of collegiate suitors for his skills on the gridiron — even more after he verbally committed to the University of Illinois in August.
But in the end, Hermosillo kept with his heart, choosing the U of I and what he describes as a “family atmosphere” around coach Tim Beckman’s program as he signed a National Letter of Intent Wednesday to play football for the Fighting Illini.
“I wasn’t wavering at all,” said Hermosillo of inking his full-scholarship deal to fulfill his verbal commitment the Illiniois football program — despite late scholarship offers from Iowa, Northwestern, and Arizona State coupled with the Illini’s struggles in a 2-10 season last year.
“I think the biggest thing is coach Beckman always pushed family. It was a very family atmosphere. Even when I went for my official visit, — there was always his wife and kids and other coaches’ wives and kids. It was always a family-oriented place.
“I also loved the campus and it’s a great academic school,” added the 2012 NewsTribune Football Player of the Year, who plans to major in mass communications. “I felt personally that our program was on the up, and what place better to do it than an in-state school where I may be able to get playing time early because they need people to play.”
The all-state running back, who rushed for 2,015 yards and 29 touchdowns this year on 195 carries, will look to switch things up and play slot receiver in college. Illinois recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Alex Golesh said that the Illini staff was sold on Hermosillo’s athleticism at receiver or running back.
“We saw a very athletic, talented player. He can plant his foot in the ground and get north and south. That is why we think he can play in the slot or at running back,” Golesh said.
“Michael also does extremely well in the classroom and comes from an awesome family. His support system and his leadership ability was also a big factor in us deciding to offer him the opportunity to play for the Illini.”
“Overall, we couldn’t be happier to have Michael join the family. The whole family has been extremely supportive of what were doing here and Michael will be a huge part of building the Illini.”
Hermosillo is embracing the move to the slot.
“I’m listed right now as a receiver. My wide receiver coach, (Billy) Gonzalez coached at Florida and LSU and coached Percy Harvin. That’s kind of the position to play — where I’m out as a wideout, but at the same time I can motion back into the backfield and take handoffs and stuff like that. He said it’s going to be comparable to what Percy Harvin was doing,” Hermosillo said.
Ottawa coach Trent Swords said the Illini are getting more than a gifted athlete. “The University of Illinois is looking not only for top-quality athletes, but (top-quality) kids. They’re getting a top-notch kid and also a top-notch athlete. Swords said that while Hermosillo’s offensive talent grabbed the spotlight that he was also a capable defender who might be able to find his way onto the defensive side of the ball.
“They’re going to get a kid who works hard, does what it is asked of him and puts his team first,” Swords said. “He’s going to work hard not only to attain team goals, but individual goals. I know he’ll do whatever it takes to get on the field. “By his third year on campus, I see him being a major contributor to the University of Illinois and something a lot of people from the area can be excited about when they turn on the blue and orange.”
Getting on Memorial Field — and other hallowed Big Ten venues — can’t happen soon enough for Hermosillo.
“I can’t wait to start playing. I can’t wait to get on that field,” said Hermosillo, who helped lead Ottawa to a perfect regular season and state quarterfinal appearance this fall. “I think it’s going to be cool to go to Penn State and play in front of 100,000 people, (play at) Michigan State, Ohio State — even if it’s getting booed. I think it’s cool sometimes to get booed in front of 90,000 people.”
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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