2015 linebacker C.J. Stalker from West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West has an link to Illinois. While several coaches on the Illini staff have their roots in Ohio, there's a direct family connection was well.
"There's a connection that goes even deeper than their Ohio connections," Stalker said. "Coach Beckman's son Tyler went to the University of Findlay (in Northwest Ohio) and played linebacker there and so did my brother. So we have known each other for a little bit now."
That familiarity gave the Illini staff knowledge of Stalker's ability, and inside linebackers Coach Mike Ward dropped by his high school recently and extended an invitation the Illini's junior day that was held last weekend on campus.
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Stalker (6-foot-1, 204 pounds) said the event was a great opportunity to build on his relationship with the staff, and learn more about the Illinois program.
"Coach Ward came in right before the dead period in December and gave my coach the information about going up there," Stalker said. "I went there with my parents, and we got up there around 2:00 and started talking to Coach Ward, Coach Seamonson, and Coach Golesh and it was really good. "
Though he has yet to pick up a scholarship offer from the Fighting Illini, Stalker feels confident that it will come his way in the near future. He holds Illinois in high regard.
"I don't have a top five or anything, but I would say Illinois is definitely one of the top ones," Stalker said. "Coach Golesh told me they have offered a bunch of linebackers, and they are really close on me. He wants me to keep in touch with him and Coach Ward. It could come over the next few weeks."
Interest in Stalker is picking up. He has four offers thus far, and more in the pipeline. .
"The offers I have are Kentucky, Virginia, UMass, and Western Michigan," he said. "I've been in heavy contact with Stanford and Duke. I've talked a little bit to the new linebacker coach at Vanderbilt. Also Coach Franklin and his staff at Penn State, Ohio State, West Virginia, Louisville, and Northwestern."
According to Stalker academics will play a major role in his final college decision. His mother is a teacher, and he is an honor student at Lakota West.
On the gridiron, Stalker is a typical, hard-hitting Midwest linebacker.
"I've been told I have a nose for the ball, and I love to hit people," Stalker said. "That's something that I bring to the game - just a lot of aggressiveness. And basic linebacker fundamentals."
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