Jaylen Dunlap feels he will be part of something special at the University of Illinois.
Like he was this season when he was part of a Crete-Monee team which went 14-0 and won the Class 6A title.
Despite Illinois' 2-10 record under first-year coach Tim Beckman, Dunlap sees a bright future in Champaign. Dunlap signed Wednesday to play his football at the University of Illinois.
"It is not only a chance to compete, but to play in my home state," Dunlap said. "We have some good in-state and out-of-state recruits coming in and I think we are ready to prove that Illinois can be an elite program again."
Dunlap said playing against Mississippi signee Laquon Treadwell every day in practice made him better.
"I went up against the best and he made me work hard," Dunlap said. "I had to push myself every practice and it showed in the games. Our whole team was challenged every day in practice."
Dunlap said he was also offered by Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Alabama-Birmingham and Northern Illinois.
Treadwell, a two-time Times Offensive Player of the Year and an Under-Armour and Parade All-America selection, committed to Ole Miss a few weeks ago, but is happy to see his other teammates receiving scholarships.
"We had a good group of guys who put in a lot of time," Treadwell said. "Whenever college coaches talked to me, I told them about my teammates."
That included wide receiver Lance Lenoir, who signed with Western Illinois.
"They run my type of offense -- they like to throw the ball," said Lenoir, who caught 69 passes for 1,113 yards and 15 touchdowns. "I went there (to Macomb) and fell in love with the program and the school. They are very competitive and it is just a good program."
Thornton's Jalen Banks said he, too, wants to be a part of a turnaround. He signed with Vanderbilt and likes the way the Commodores are heading. They were 6-7 last year and 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference.
"We have some great talent coming in and this (incoming) class can be a big part of us having a winning program," Banks said. "The SEC is the best (conference) in the country and we know playing against teams like Alabama, LSU, Missouri, Arkansas, will make us better."
Teammate Jamal Towns signed with Illinois State, while Jason Towns inked with Sioux Falls.
Other Crete-Monee football players who signed are: Kyle Lewis (St. Francis, Ill.); and Austin Rosenfeldt (St. Cloud State). Girls swimmer Lauren Carlos will sign with Washington (Mo.).
Mount Carmel's Draco Smith signed with Northern Illinois, while D.J. Romero and Vincent Speller signed with Illinois State and Eastern Illinois respectively. John Wirtel will walk on at Kansas as a long snapper. Other Caravan players who signed are: Don Butkus (St. Francis, Ill.); Joe Pavlik (St. Xavier); Nick Driexler (West Virginia State); and Ivan Strmic (Robert Morris).
Homewood-Flossmoor had six players sign, led by Payson Wick (Drake). Ron Johnson, Drew McGauire and Willie Ross signed with Concordia (Minn.). Terrance Reese signed with Malone (Ohio) and Thad Little with Grand Valley (Mich.) State.
Beecher cross country and track star Grant Nykaza signed a letter of intent to run at Florida State.