Recruit Aikens already at home with teammates

By Cody Westerlund

Walter Aikens is one of 20 new recruits who signed with Illini football on Wednesday. A 6-foot, 179-pound senior from Harding University High School in Charlotte, N.C., Aikens played many positions as a prep but was recruited as a safety. The Daily Illini recently spoke with Aikens about his commitment to the Illini and his goals for the future.

Daily Illini: Why did you choose the University of Illinois over other schools that targeted you, such as Louisville and Clemson?

Walter Aikens: I talked to Coach Zook a lot and … I liked how Coach talked about family. I really liked that. He made it seem like it’s going to be my home away from home. I got up there and I got to know the players and how they interact around campus and stuff and it was just real nice around there. I liked everything about it.

DI: What did you think about the players you met on your visit?

WA: We got along. I met a lot of new people and a lot of recruits. It felt real natural. I was with Ashante Williams, Juice Williams, I was with Arrelious (Benn). A lot of other players were around, like Corey (Liuget).

DI: Did anything strike you as far as the camaraderie among the players here?

WA: Everybody seemed real close. I was also talking to Tavon Wilson. (We were) talking most of the time about football and life around the campus. Everything seemed real nice, like I could get used to that.

DI: How much of an effect did the Illini’s 5-7 record last season have on your decision?

WA: That actually made me want to play more (for Illinois). The high school I’m at now, it wasn’t doing good at all; it was a bad school athletic-wise. Only a couple sports were thriving, and football was something we weren’t know for. I wanted to change that around, so my junior year was the year everything changed. We had a winning season for the first time in a long time and made it to the playoffs. That actually just makes me fired up, makes me want to play harder.

DI: How would you describe yourself as a player?

WA: I think I’m an all-around player. I’m big and tall, but I’m athletic and not clumsy with anything. I play every sport, so everything just comes natural. I consider myself an all-around player. I can play quarterback, receiver, safety or linebacker; anywhere you want me to play, I can play.

DI: Do you like to hit more or cover more when you’re at safety?

WA: I’m best at coverage. One on one coverage, I can hold my own. But I will come up and make a big hit.

DI: What are your goals for next season?

WA: I want to get Big Ten Defensive Freshman of the Year … I want to do whatever I can to help the team win and get over .500.