Megginson a big get for Illini
Gabe Megginson didn't attend many Illinois football games growing up two hours away from Champaign-Urbana.
"I went to two games in junior high, between sixth grade and eighth grade," Megginson said.
The newest in-state commit for the Illini will have the opportunity to play in a bunch more once his college career starts during the 2015 season.
The left tackle from Jacksonville committed to Illinois more than nine months ahead of national signing day next February, but he took his time with the recruiting process.
He frequented college campuses around the Big Ten and checked out some of the other 24 schools who offered him along the way.
"I didn't go into the Deep South," Megginson said. "I went to Arkansas, but that was the extent. I thought about going on a couple more visits, but if I knew where I wanted to go, why waste the miles?"
He and his family made the drive on Friday evening from Interstate 72 straight into Champaign for another visit to Illinois.
Megginson wanted to surprise Tim Beckman on Friday by making a verbal pledge in person to the Illinois coach.
But once Megginson started calling opposing coaches on Thursday to let him know he was picking Illinois, word leaked and started to spread via social media.
"It was all over Twitter," Megginson said with a laugh. "It wasn't much of a surprise, but he was expecting it, and he was so happy."
Megginson said he was glad he took the time to call schools who recruited him and who he was seriously considering.
"The first one was hard because I didn't really know what to expect," Megginson said. "A lot of them respected the fact that I called them instead of surprising them on Twitter."
Beckman, offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, offensive line coach A.J. Ricker, defensive line coach Greg Colby and recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh all played a role in Megginson's recruitment.
The aggressive approach Illinois used on Megginson, along with the emphasis on landing one of the premier in-state offensive linemen in the Class of 2015, was enough to sway Megginson.
"This past week I just woke up and realized what Illinois has done for me with recruiting," Megginson said. "They've done everything they could. If you know where your home is, why wait anymore? I came up for a junior day event during my sophomore year, and I loved it. I didn't know anything about (Illinois), even living in-state. There's been a couple coaching changes since I started getting recruited during my sophomore year as far as the offensive line, but just the people is what drew me in."
No word yet on if Megginson will graduate early from Jacksonville so he can take part in 2015 spring practices or if he'll wait until February and sign.
He has his senior season upcoming at Jacksonville, and is intent on making sure the Crimsons make a dent in the postseason after advancing to the second round in the Class 5A playoffs last year.
"Coming from a spread offense, we really balance it out," Megginson said. "I think my strength is that I have a better idea of both run blocking and pass blocking. I think I'm pretty balanced. I want to work on getting better at pass protection. I want to work on more technique this year."
Whenever he does arrive at Illinois, though, he is bound to have his name mentioned among the most highly-touted recruits in the Illinois class, which also includes in-state quarterback Jimmy Fitzgerald from Champaign Centennial and in-state running back Dre Brown from DeKalb so far.
Megginson seems to understand the implications of his commitment to Illinois, and what his decision might mean when it's all said and done for the Class of 2015.
Having an in-state prospect spurn the likes of Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin, among others, might make other recruits think twice before scratching Illinois off their list.
"I know all of us in-state players have talked, and we know what we can do here," Megginson said. "Hopefully it catches on. It's a great opportunity if you see all these great players stay in-state."