St. Francis lineman McMillen commits to Illinois

  • Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comSt. Francis lineman TJ McMillen, right, pictured celebrating with teammate Ben Radel, will play college football in Champaign for Bret Bielema and the University of Illinois.

    Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comSt. Francis lineman TJ McMillen, right, pictured celebrating with teammate Ben Radel, will play college football in Champaign for Bret Bielema and the University of Illinois.

 
By Bobby Narang
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 5/27/2022 11:57 AM

St. Francis junior lineman TJ McMillen had a plan for his summer.

In typical offensive/defensive lineman fashion, he blew up his own plans with a surprise decision.

 

A three-star recruit, McMillen committed to Illinois on May 21.

McMillen admitted his commitment to Illinois was a shock -- to even himself.

"My plan, even until the day I committed, was that I was setting up my (summer) trips with my mom," McMillen said. "I was basically going to travel all over the country, and whichever school I fell in love with, 'Bam, I would commit.' I was even maybe planning to take my recruiting into the football season."

Eight days before his commitment, the 6-foot-3, 270-pound McMillen said Illinois started the ball rolling by offering him a scholarship. McMillen, a three-sport athlete, admitted he was a "Big Ten fan my whole life," but not necessarily an Illini fan. Regarding his Illinois clothing and merchandise, McMillen had "little to none" before his commitment. Since then, he's bought several Illini clothes. But he was sold by Illinois football coach Bret Bielema and offensive line coach and Elk Grove graduate Bart Miller's vision for the program.

"Illinois was straight up with me, and for some time, they weren't sure if they would be taking a center in the Class of 2023," he said. "Coach (Bart) Miller came to one of my baseball games, then the next day, Coach Bielema called me and offered me.

"The main selling point for me was the coaches. It took me only eight days to fall in love with them. I haven't even been on the (Illinois) campus in a really long time. Coach Bielema told me the past seven centers he's recruited have been drafted. He's said he thinks I can do the same thing. The success he's had in college and the NFL really stuck out to me, it was a big thing. I'm a very competitive guy. I want to go to a school that wins. He's going to do that. He will turn it around, and fast."

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His father, St. Francis coach Bob McMillen, admitted he was shocked at TJ's sudden decision to end his recruiting. TJ McMillen had options from nearly every conference with 34 offers.

"We had a lot of conversations, with him, me and his mother, even whether he would play offense or defense, or go to the Big Ten, SEC or Big 12," Bob McMillen said. "Then, 'Boom, it happened.' He said he wanted to talk to me, after he was talking to coach Miller. I said, 'Are you sure, you don't have to do it now.' He was excited. He called coach Bielema that evening.

"TJ's a special kid. He's a true competitor and he's exceeded all of my expectations. He's a good kid and a good student. I'm so proud of him. I'm extremely proud of what my son has accomplished, and looking forward to watching him this season. I'm hoping he can end and start his career in Champaign."

Williams collecting big offers:

Naperville North sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Luke Williams hit the double-digit mark in offers this week. The 6-1, 174-pounder added an offer some the SEC on May 23, when Missouri extended him an offer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Williams finished with 51 tackles, 3 interceptions and 3 pass breakups and scored 7 touchdowns last season to earn DuPage Valley All-Conference honors.

"The (Missouri) offer means that people at these higher places, like the SEC, which is one of the highest level of college football to play at, are interested in me and (I'm) excited for the future to see what's to come," Williams said.

Also a standout guard and sprinter and jumper, Williams also has offers from Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, Boston College, Iowa State, Kansas, Central Michigan, Miami-Ohio and Bowling Green. Williams said he's lining up visits to Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Wisconsin and Northwestern. His older brother, Zeke, committed to Northern Illinois.

Williams said his recent offers from Minnesota and Missouri have elevated his recruiting in the Big Ten and SEC.

"It's very exciting experience right now getting to know the recruiting process, but I know it's going to get harder to get out to the place," Williams said. "By September 1, they're going to be a lot of calls. I'm really excited to get out in camps, to show what I've got and the attention to detail I play with and the way I get after it on the field."

Extra notes:

Glenbard West junior offensive lineman Chris Terek experienced an epic run earlier this month. On May 10, he picked up offers from Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan ... Downers Grove South junior tight end Mack O'Halloran added an offer from Grand Valley State on Tuesday.

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