Everything at Illinois 'clicked' for Roberts
Austin Roberts isn’t a Clay Matthews or Green Bay Packers fan.
Nor did he root heavily for Brian Urlacher when the play-making linebacker was with the Chicago Bears.
Since he was born in New Jersey and lived roughly 20 minutes away from Philadelphia until he was 8 years old, the recent Illinois football commit cheered for Andy Reid’s old team.
“I love my Eagles,” Roberts said with a laugh.
Roberts became the fifth commit in the Class of 2014 for Illinois (up to seven with linebacker Henry McGrew giving a verbal commitment last Tuesday and wide receiver Malik Turner doing so Monday night) on June 13.
The plan all along for the linebacker from Rice Lake (Wis.) was to end his recruitment before July arrived on the calendar.
June has turned into a relatively stress-free for Roberts after he chose Illinois.
“I would have a whirlwind month,” Roberts said. “I had planned on going cross country. Everything just seemed to click with Illinois.”
Roberts, who is listed at 6 feet, 3 inches and 230 pounds, made 152 tackles, seven sacks and forced five fumbles last fall for a 6-4 Rice Lake squad.
He camped at Illinois last summer during a one-day showcase at Memorial Stadium and worked out in front of the Illinois coaches again on June 1 when Illinois hosted a morning satellite camp at Lincoln-Way East High School.
Illinois was his first offer from a Big Ten school.
He had 12 other offers, mostly from Football Championship Subdivision schools, along with offers from both Army and Air Force.
Central Michigan and Wyoming were his other FBS offers, and Ivy League schools like Columbia, Harvard, Penn and Yale were in pursuit.
“Illinois was my first big-time offer, but I feel like I could have gotten more offers eventually,” Roberts said. “But I figured, ‘What’s the point? It just matters where you end up. Why waste my time?’ On top of it all, it’s Big Ten football. It doesn’t get any bigger than that.”
Roberts, who attended Michigan State for the Spartans’ spring game in April, said he had visits planned to Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin in June, but canceled them after committing to Illinois.
“I got on campus and I just fell in love,” Roberts said. “It was perfect. I just had a gut feeling that it was meant to be. I loved everything from the size of the university to all the little dumb things. I’m a Nike guy and I liked that they are a Nike school. I like that they really push academics. I love that they really push you to strive on the classroom other than the field.”
Roberts, who has a 4.0 grade-point average at Rice Lake, will become a pre-med major at Illinois, he said, with plans on becoming an orthopedic surgeon someday.
Roberts is a two-way starter at Rice Lake, whose population is around 8,000 and whose high school has an enrollment of 767 students, and is a tight end on offense.
He’ll focus his attention squarely on the defensive side of the ball at Illinois.
“I feel I’m more like a Big Ten linebacker with my style of play and my size,” Roberts said. “After looking over Illinois’’ program, from a strictly standpoint, they really needed linebackers, and they needed inside backers. I feel I have a good shot at actually getting on the field early.”