Looking back on Football Signing Day 2007

By Courtney Linehan

Commentary from author: After his second consecutive losing season, Ron Zook needed a catalyst to renew faith in the Illinois football program. Enter Signing Day 2007.

Zook wowed the nation – and raised eyebrows on other college campuses – as he followed up the Big Ten’s worst record with one of its best recruiting classes.

DI photographer Pat Traylor and I skipped class to travel to Bloomington, Ill., for Josh Brent’s official signing day press conference. We then dragged Josh through the snow, onto the Bloomington Central Catholic football field to shoot photos that never ran in print. Sorry Josh.

Maybe the highlight of the spring season, though, was watching another big-name recruit in his first few weeks as an Illini. Rejus Benn, a wide reciever from Dunbar High School in Maryland, is supposed to be the Scottie Pippen to Juice Williams’ Michael Jordan (MJ, if you happen to be on campus with Jeff and pick this up, I’d love an interview).

Rejus showed signs of greatness during the spring season, and will hopefully be a leader among Illinois’ famed freshman class in 2007.

Commentary by: Courtney Linehan

Original Published on Feb. 8, republished May 7.

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Wearing an orange and blue tie and his Saints letterman jacket, Josh Brent sat at a blue-draped table in the Central Catholic High School cafeteria Wednesday afternoon. With balloons flanking him, a half-dozen reporters in front of him and a lunchroom full of his fellow students looking on, Brent prepared to fill out the last few forms to pledge his next four years to Illinois football.

Brent is one of 21 players who committed to the Illini yesterday as part of National Letter of Intent Signing Day. Head coach Ron Zook and the Illini pulled in an unprecedented recruiting class, considered tops in the Big Ten and 10th in the country by ESPN.

The last letter came through the fax machine before noon, as everything went as planned despite a rocky recruiting season. Illinois lost a few prospects in the days preceding signing day, yet still raised eyebrows with its ability to draw some of the best high school players in the country. But Zook made one thing clear at his press conference Wednesday afternoon: Signing day is about the players who will be Illini.