Illinois eyes Millender

Illinois eyes Millender

The eight schools that comprise the Southwestern Conference have produced 35 players who have earned a letter playing football at Illinois throughout its history.

The large-school Illinois high school league that is in the Metro St. Louis area, however, has never sent a player to Illinois from Belleville West.

Two came from Belleville Township High School before the city split into two high schools (Belleville East and Belleville West) in 1966

Might it change with the Class of 2014? Perhaps.

Belleville West linebacker Tori Millender does not yet have an offer from Illinois, but has interest from the Illini and attended Friday night’s spring game.

The 6-foot-1-inch, 235-pounder has an offer from Purdue, along with interest from Iowa, Missouri, Northwestern and Wisconsin.

“He’s kind of a man amongst boys,” Belleville West coach Cameron Pettus said. “He’s big and strong. He can run, and he’s got good instincts.”

With Millender about to hit the spring camp circuit, Pettus expects the interest to ratchet up in his linebacker, who made 102 tackles and five sacks last fall for a Maroons team that finished 6-4 and lost in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs to conference foe East St. Louis.

“I know a bunch of schools are starting to call me (about Millender),” Pettus said. “He likes Illinois, and they’re definitely on his list.”

Why’s that?

“The fact that they’re close to home and that they play Big Ten football,” Pettus said. “They do have a tradition of producing some very good linebackers, and Illinois put outs some football players that play in the NFL. Even in regards to their record the past couple years, they’ve had players that have had the opportunity to go on and play.”

Pettus said Millender doesn’t have a set timetable on when he wants to make a decision, but said Millender could possibly follow the route of Illinois cornerback Darius Mosely.

Mosely, an O’Fallon native, graduated from high school in December to join Illinois for spring practices and has seen time with Tim Beckman’s first-team defense this spring.

Illinois running backs coach Tim Salem is the lead recruiter on Millender, and Pettus has been impressed with the job he’s done in regards to his standout linebacker, who has progressed each year since he entered high school.

“When he was a freshman, he blew up our first-team senior fullback and first-team senior tailback on the first play of a scrimmage,” Pettus said. “Everybody looked at each other and said, ‘He can be something special.’”


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