Friday was significant to Ralph Cooper for two reasons. First, it was senior night for his Winnsboro team, in which they came out victorious in a 28-0 shutout.
"We're 8-1 right now. If we keep going like we're going we'll be pretty good. I think we were 9-3 last year."
Second he gave Illinois his commitment, becoming the latest member in a quickly growing class.
"I was going to wait until after my official in December, but Illinois was showing me they really wanted me and it's best for me right now."
So will Cooper still take his official visit?
"Yeah, I'm going to come out. I want my parents to come with me to get to know the coaches. My parents are nervous about it, so hopefully they'll feel better about me going so far away when they come."
Cooper let the Illinois coaches know his decision early Friday.
"I called coach (Ron) West then I called coach (Ron) Zook to let them know. They were pretty excited."
Cooper felt that Illinois had everything he wanted in a school and named a few of the things that really sold him on Illinois.
"The environment. Being around the team and the coaches. The facilities are great. I feel like I can talk to the coaches about anything, even outside of football. When I got to hang out with the team they were like a close knit family, and that really drew me to it."
In addition to delivering the news to the coaches, Cooper first informed his parents of his decision.
"I just told my parents that I wanted to commit. Wake was talking about offering, and their coach called me earlier this week and said they weren't going to offer. I decided to go with Illinois because I didn't feel like I needed to wait any longer."
Cooper also is acquainted with fellow Illinois recruit and South Carolinian Zeph Grimes from his visit in April.
"I haven't talked to him much lately, but I keep in touch. I'm going to let him know I committed though."
With the playoffs ahead, Cooper is focused on this year. But he knows that he now has to step up his preparation for his time at Illinois.
"I just need to work hard in the weight room. Get better on the field. My technique, all that."