Danville's Griffin commits to Illinois football

Danville's Griffin commits to Illinois football

DANVILLE — Lovie Smith’s Illinois football program already was going to net plenty of rooting interest from the Danville area after Viking senior Julian Pearl signed with the program in December as an offensive lineman.

But after fellow Danville senior Caleb Griffin’s college selection Friday, those in Vermilion County now will have a double-dose of Vikings suiting up for the Illini.

Griffin announced he’d compete for Smith’s squad in a unique way, donning a pair of socks with the Illini logo prior to Friday’s boys’ basketball game between Danville and Peoria Manual. It got the job done, though, as the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Griffin will join Illinois as a preferred walk-on kicker.

“It’s awesome. I’m going to be 30 minutes from home,” Griffin said. “Something Coach Smith said to me was not only is my family going to be able to watch me play, but also my grade-school teachers, my high-school teachers, my coaches.”

Griffin said he plans to redshirt his freshman season before competing for kickoff and field goal duties. Current Illini senior Chase McLaughlin is set to graduate later this year, leaving sophomores Blake Hayes and James McCourt as the lone specialists presently on Smith’s roster.

For Griffin, his college pick came down to connections. Despite holding scholarship offers from Ball State, Bowling Green and Illinois State and preferred walk-on options with Iowa and Virginia Tech, Illinois ultimately won out thanks to Smith and his staff.

“I think it was the fact that I have a relationship with more than just one coach,” Griffin said. “(Special teams analyst Jake) Zweig has been around a while. He’s come to multiple basketball games and seen me at school. But having (defensive line coach Mike) Phair and (offensive line coach Luke) Butkus around to see Julian (was impactful), and then we went on a visit before the new year. My family and I got to spend time with Coach Smith.”

Griffin said that while he was excited to know his recruitment was coming to a close, he also wasn’t looking forward to some of the phone calls he had to make earlier in the week.

“It’s been really hard,” Griffin said. “You build relationships with these coaches, and then at the end of the day you have to tell one coach (you’re committing). ... The big thing is relationships and the best fit for me.”

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Bwp 5P wrote on January 27, 2018 at 9:01 am

Congratulations!! We'll be rooting for you!!

Moonpie wrote on January 27, 2018 at 2:01 pm

They beat out ISU and Bowling Green for a KICKER from Danville. Wow!

Lovie Dovie Debacle Man is really rolling now.

Jpa78 wrote on January 28, 2018 at 6:01 am

Guess you failed to see prefer walk on offer from virgina tech and oh yeah he had just received a schollorship offer from Iowa Friday . Top 12 kicker in the nation