"It feels great. It's my first Big 10 offer, and I'm really excited."
The Oak Park-River Forest junior linebacker visited the Illini prior to playing with a traveling team in 7-on-7 action the last weekend of Illini summer camps.
"I got a chance to see the rest of the school. I took a tour around campus, and I really like it. It's a very nice community. I was down here for the Nike Football Training Camp, but this was my first chance to see the school."
Sykes has a strong early interest in his state school.
"Illinois is great. They're two hours away from Oak Park. It's a great school. The coaching staff is fantastic, a good group of guys. I really like it here."
He has three other offers besides the Illini, and two additional Big 10 schools are showing interest.
"I also have offers from Northern Illinois, Toledo and Miami of Ohio. I was at Michigan State and was talking to Coach (Dan) Roushar. They seem interested. I also went to a Wisconsin camp."
Sykes likes going against running attacks from his linebacker spot.
"I prefer defending the run because I like to fill the gap and meet them at the line of scrimmage. I like to hit."
However, the 6'-1", 220 pounder also proved his mettle as a pass defender in one-on-one and 7-on-7 action. He added his new-found pass protection skills to his list of assets as a linebacker.
"I think I'm quick enough to cover those guys. I've got a good eye for the ball. I have good strength because I also play defensive end. I'm quick off the ball and have a lot of agility and speed.
"Just my overall game. My coaches back at school really helped me with my footwork and hips, everything one needs to be a successful linebacker, especially at a school like Illinois."
His criteria for a college are similar to many of his peers.
"I want a school with a good education. If the NFL doesn't work out, you always need a backup plan. And also a school with a good football program."
Sykes wants sports to remain a big part of his life.
"I'm considering Business Management and Sports Medicine as possible majors. I want to be around sports and maybe have my own business."
Oak Park-River Forest has the makings of a top program the next couple of seasons. Sykes is not the team's only asset.
"We're gonna be looking real good. We've got a lot of sophomores coming up, and I think we're gonna do well for the next two years."