Daniel Rhodes was recruited to play fullback/tight end by former Illinois head coach Ron Zook and his staff. He graduated high school in 2011, but the UI staff asked him to forego entrance into college one semester so his scholarship would count against the 2012 class rather than the 2011 class.
Most athletes don't prefer this approach, but Rhodes accepted it and is now enrolled for second semester classes. He was introduced at the Signing Day festivities Wednesday at the Assembly Hall. It appears he never wavered on his commitment to the UI. He explains why.
"I fell in love with this place the first time I came here for my visit."
Was he filled with doubt when Zook and staff were fired?
"No, not really. As I said, I fell in love with it. So I stayed the course and made the decision to come here."
It helped that new coach Tim Beckman made a solid impression on him.
"Coach Beckman is a great coach. I'm really impressed with the whole coaching staff."
What did the graduate of Independence High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, do while his peers were in college last semester?
"I've been at home just working and stuff, getting prepared to come up here to go to school."
Rhodes played tight end in high school, but he's built more like a fullback. Since the fullback position doesn't exist in the Illini offense anymore, wasn't that a concern?
"I just want to show the new staff what I can do. Wherever they put me is fine with me. I just want to show what I can do."
The 6'-3", 250 pounder is now bunched with a deep and handsome tight end group. He does not consider than a deterrent to his success.
"I love challenges. It makes me better."
Some have suggested Rhodes has a future as an offensive guard. He has heard the talk, but that is all it is at this point.
"I really don't like offensive guard, but I'll do it to help the team out."
Rhodes has gotten to know strength coach Aaron Hillman better than the other coaches since beginning classes two weeks ago. He already has seen improvement in his body.
"He's a great coach also. He wants to increase your workload when you work out. He also wants you to give 100% effort when you work out. I like that about him. I've lost about 16 pounds already."
Rhodes is majoring in Communications.