Illinois is hoping they found a hidden gem in a late addition to their 2014 recruiting class. 2-star prospect Chris James from Orange (Texas) West-Orange Stark pledged to the Illini one day ahead of National Signing Day.
James took his official visit to Illinois last weekend, and it felt like the right fit for him both as a player and student.
"I want to major in business, and I really like their business school," James said. "And I like the facilities, and how they are a family at Illinois."
During his trip north to Champaign, James got to spend time getting to know the staff better. Those relationships also played a big role in his decision to pledge to the Illini.
"Coach Ricker and I are real cool, and I'm really close with Coach Banks," James said. "Coach Ricker came by my school and watched me work out."
A two way player in high school, James racked up over 700 yards of offense and scored 13 touchdowns his senior season. But his future is on the other side of the ball at the next level, and that suits him fine.
"I prefer to play corner," James said. "I had 3 picks and 55 tackles last year. I'm good at covering and making open field tackles. And I have good speed - I run about a 4.5 forty. "
Orange is located in southeast Texas 110 miles from Houston. One of the reasons James said he wasn't highly recruited is he transferred from powerhouse Ozen High School in nearby Beaumont, a school that gets a lot of attention from college scouts.
The opportunity to sign with a Big Ten school was something James couldn't pass up.
"I had to transfer from Ozen before my junior year," he said. "It all worked out. I accomplished my goal to go play D-1 football. It feels great."