Northern Illinois was the first school to offer Kevin Jones a scholarship.
A couple months and several offers later, that first impression was lasting.
Jones, a senior who won two games and saved a third in leading Portage to its first sectional championship in 18 years, verbally committed Wednesday to play for the Huskies.
"I wanted to see what other options I had, but at the end of the day, it came back to Northern," Jones said from Target Field in Minneapolis, where he played in the RBI World Series this week. "They wanted me real bad. They're building new facilities. They're growing as a program."
A coach from Northern Illinois, which won the Mid American Conference's Western Division this season, spoke to Jones after the LaPorte Regional, where he struggled in a loss to Lake Central, pitching on short rest.
"They were smart enough to know I wasn't 100 percent," Jones said. "I was only throwing 84, 85 (miles per hour)."
A few weeks later, Northern offered.
Since then, Jones has been on a whirlwind tour, playing in four major league stadiums -- Minute Maid Park in Houston, U.S. Cellular Field, Busch Stadium in St. Louis and Target Field -- and gaining interest from other schools.
"It takes the monkey off my back," he said. "It feels good. This is something I've dreamed about since I was like 12. I've wanted to go to college and play Division I."
Jones went 6-3, posting a 1.31 earned run average with 81 strikeouts over 53 innings.
"It's a good fit. NIU is a program on the rise and is very competitive in the MAC. He's got a great opportunity to come in and contribute right away," Portage coach Tim Pirowski said.
"I think Kevin is just starting to realize his full potential. He had a great year throwing only two pitches for the most part. He has worked hard on his change-up and cutter all summer and is ready to carry that over to the regular season."
Northern had just five seniors on its 2013 roster. Junior Jeff Zimmerman was drafted in the 19th round by the Mariners.