Madison's Nic DiLillo became the 11th member of the 2008 Ohio State recruiting class when he committed to Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel. The commitment of DiLillo followed what was probably the oddest recruiting odyssey of any Ohio senior. After previously committing to Clemson and later Pitt, DiLillo finally received the offer he coveted all his life, and he wasted no time in accepting it.
"I grew up in a Buckeye family," DiLillo began. "We watched the Buckeyes every Saturday, and I've loved Ohio State my whole life. All my life I dreamed of playing for Ohio State, but I never thought it could happen. I knew I was a pretty good player when I was younger, but I never thought I was an Ohio State-type recruit. All through the recruiting process I just never thought I was their guy. I wasn't invited to any games my junior year until the Michigan game. I went there and they had a lot of recruits there. There were players there that I knew weren't going to get offered by Ohio State, and I thought I was one of them."
Attending the Ohio State-Michigan game only fueled the passion DiLillo already felt for the Buckeyes. He later compared that experience to other schools, and all of them fell short of Ohio State.
"The Michigan game was the most awesome experience in the world," he said. "I loved it there and I've been to Pitt and some other places, but nothing compared to Ohio State. It was just a dream for me to play there, and I remember telling my parents that they wouldn't ever offer me. I thought the offers I had were all I would get, so I decided to find one of those schools to play for. That was tough."
Last spring DiLillo had an impressive camp circuit and put himself on the radar of many top programs. He described his contact with Ohio State throughout the spring and into summer.
"Obviously, I committed to Clemson way too early and on the spur of the moment," he explained. "They told me they had six tight end offers out there and the first one to commit would get it. They really pressured me on my visit, and I went ahead and told them I would commit. On my second trip back to Clemson I knew I had made a mistake, and I realized it was too far away and the wrong place for me. The funny thing is that at that time I was talking with Coach [Taver] Johnson at Ohio State. I told him I would do anything to be a Buckeye, and I would de-commit from anywhere to go to Ohio State. That was in April and I never heard from Ohio State again, so I figured they had ruled me out completely."
After believing that Ohio State was not going to offer, DiLillo went ahead and committed to Pitt. He was very comfortable with that choice, until a certain Friday night when he received a text message at an Indian's game. It was from Jim Tressel, and Ohio State was offering a scholarship. DiLillo liked Pitt, but this was Ohio State calling.
"Pitt was a school that had been recruiting me from the beginning," DiLillo said. "It was a good fit for me, and the second choice for me, assuming Ohio State wasn't going to want me. I knew I could play early there and they play two or three tight ends all the time. They were only two hours away and I was happy with Pitt."
DiLillo knew that this was a great year for tight ends in Ohio, confirmed by Ohio State's early offers to Kyle Rudolph and Kevin Koger. While Rudolph committed to Notre Dame early in the process, most people felt Koger would accept the Buckeye's offer and become the tight end recruit for 2008.
"Everyone I talked to thought Koger was going to be a Buckeye," DiLillo stated. "I was shocked when I heard Kevin had committed to Michigan. Everywhere I read on the internet had Koger being a Buckeye. I was shocked that he committed to Michigan, but I didn't think it would have any effect on my situation. I was wrong."
After receiving the Ohio State offer,DiLillo wasted little time accepting it. DiLillo spoke about his feeling on clearly being the Buckeye's third choice at tight end.
"It doesn't bother me at all to be there third choice," he admitted emphatically. "I'm a very faithful kid and I know a lot of kids never get this opportunity to play at Ohio State. I think I'm still in shock over getting the chance. I know I have worked hard and I think I'm going to work even harder than anyone, because I know I have to prove myself worthy of being a Buckeye. I know people question Ohio State for offering me, but I will use that as motivation to get in the weight room and get bigger, stronger and faster. All I think about is being better than all the other senior tight ends in Ohio. I know about A.J. Hawk being a three star recruit, but look what he accomplished at Ohio State. In two years I want people to forget I wasn't Ohio State's first choice. Through hard work, I believe that can and will happen. That's clearly my goal at Ohio State and that's what drives me to get better every day. I owe Jim Tressel and Ohio State so much, and I don't want to let them down."
Even though DiLillo committed to Ohio State within a few days after receiving his offer, he didn't instantly feel like a member of the "Brew Crew." It took a call from one of his future teammates to begin the process of becoming a full- fledged "Brew Crew" member.
"I knew a little bit about the "Brew Crew" from reading about them on Scout.com, but I didn't really know these guys personally," DiLillo explained with a laugh. "At first I was really excited, but I realized I didn't know any of these guys. I would look at their FaceBook pages, but my picture wasn't there with the rest of them. Then I got a call from Michael Brewster almost immediately after I committed, and he welcomed me into the group. That felt great, but seeing everybody last week at the Ohio State-Northwestern game really made me feel part of the group officially. I didn't plan on staying the entire weekend and I didn't have a place to stay, but I ended up staying the whole weekend and just chilling with the guys. The best part was Brewster telling me that we were all family and that he was here for me whenever I needed him. That meant so much for him to welcome me into the gang. All the guys were just great to me. I wondered how they would look at me because of the way my commitment went down, but they were all awesome, every one of them. Spending the weekend with all of them just let us all get to know each other so much better, and it was such a great time."
DiLillo also spoke about his thoughts on some of his other future teammates, both as people and as football players. Even though nearly every player says the same thing about his fellow commits, it is always a wonderful story to hear.
"Mike Adams is really cool," DiLillo said admiringly. "Mike is such a big dude and he's such a fun guy. You can tell he's a leader and he's very humble. I saw him play the week before, at Mentor, and he's a pure stud. Just seeing him walk out on the field, you can see he looks like an Ohio State football player. He was killing people and he just crushed everyone he went after.'
"Jake Stoneburner was a guy I looked at as a rival tight end in the beginning. We never really spoke and I wasn't sure how that would go, but he welcomed me as soon as he saw me at the game. We got along great and he was a super guy, and I ended up giving him one of my shirts to wear that evening. I think he'll be one of my closer friends on the team. He will be a great player and basically impossible to cover.'
"Andrew Sweat was a guy I knew pretty well from attending a few combines together. I've spoken with him a lot over the past year, but I never thought we'd end up on the same team. We already knew each other, so it was like seeing an old friend again. Sweat is a nasty linebacker and I'll bet he plays right away. He's a lot better athlete than people think.'
"Devier Posey is a really funny guy and I didn't expect that. He's the life of the party and he makes everybody laugh. I was surprised at how tall he was and how long his arms are. I've seen his film and you can see how easy playing receiver comes to him. He runs great routes and catches everything they throw near him. He's the real deal."
Nic DiLillo said he's not really the recruiter that Stoneburner and Brewster are, but he has reached out to at least one Buckeye target.
"I haven't done much of that because I want to make sure I don't get in the way, but I want to do my part," DiLillo explained. "I have talked a lot with D.J. Woods. I tried to talk with him about what it would take to switch schools like I did. We talked on the phone for about 20 minutes about a few weeks ago. I talked with him after the Northwestern game, but he seems pretty solid with Nebraska."
The Buckeyes also hosted Maryland star Lamaar Thomas for the Northwestern game, and DiLillo spoke about meeting Thomas.
"We had a great time with Lamaar," DiLillo said. "The whole night we were talking to him about what it means to be a Buckeye. I'm not sure which way he's leaning, but I know he had a great time at Ohio State. I think he knows he would have some great teammates if he comes here with us."
DiLillo laughed when he was asked to name the player he felt would be the captain of the Ohio State team when they are all seniors. He didn't hesitate in answering though.
"Brewster will be the captain," he stated emphatically. "He's the ring-leader and he's responsible for the "Brew Crew." They named it after the right guy, trust me. He's the biggest asset to this class. He's the ultimate leader, as well as a great football player. The first text he sent me was telling me congratulations and I was now part of the family. He is the guy that everybody looks to. When everyone is together it seems that Brewster runs the show and everybody follows his lead. I'm 100% certain that he will be our captain."
Finally, DiLillo touched on why he's so thankful to be a Buckeye, focusing on one current Ohio State player and his future head coach.
"You know I met Jake Ballard last weekend and I couldn't believe how great he was to me," DiLillo stated. "He talked with me about what I need to do to be a player at Ohio State, and what he's done to be successful. He didn't treat me like some punk high school kid at all. He showed me a lot of respect and he wants me to be successful at Ohio State. I'm looking forward to being teammates with him. I will probably red-shirt next year and try to get bigger and stronger, but I'll be watching Ballard and seeing how he does things. It's great to see everybody rooting for each other and I'm sure that's why Ohio State is so successful.'
"The family atmosphere comes directly from Jim Tressel. I didn't know him much before he texted me at that Indians game. I wasn't even sure it was him and thought it might be one of my friends playing a joke on me. Then I got to sit in his office for almost three hours and we hardly talked about football at all. He is a Godly man and I like that. He's someone I respect so much, both as a great coach and as a great man. I'm so blessed to have him as my head coach. I can't wait to play for him and learn from him."
The theme might be the same, but the players are totally different from one another. It's amazing to see how these players are becoming more than just teammates. Join us again tomorrow when we will take another inside look at the "Making of the Brew Crew."