CHAMPAIGN - Location and proximity were obvious factors in the eventual union between Illinois and Jimmy Fitzgerald.
The 6-2, 195-pound 2015 quarterback attends nearby Centennial High, spent his childhood in the shadow of the campus and the past year learning the football program inside and out.
With that in mind, a visit to coordinator Bill Cubit's quarterback room last summer essentially solidified Fitzgerald staying home.
"I had an opportunity to sit in one of his meetings," Fitzgerald recalls. "Just the way he talks to his quarterbacks, he's a great teacher of the game. I'm really excited to have the opportunity to play for him."
On campus again for Saturday's junior day, Fitzgerald decided to commit to Coach Tim Beckman, making him the first verbal pledge of the '15 class.
"I just felt like it was the right decision," Fitzgerald said. "I believe in Coach Beckman and Coach Cubit. I think we can build a strong foundation. They already have the wheels turning. There's a lot of kids in the state of Illinois in the 2015 class. We need to get in here and get this thing going."
Fitzgerald sat with 2015 wideouts Miles Boykin and Flynn Nagel during the Illinois-Iowa basketball game on Saturday. He's the first commit, the quarterback, and he's comfortable in the spotlight. Now that his recruitment is over, Fitzgerald said he'll turn his attention to adding others to the Illini list.
"I feel like I can try and get some of the guys I already have some relationships with," he said, noting Dre Brown and Leon Thornton as those he knew well. "I play with a lot of kids from Chicago in offseason ball, so I have some pretty good relationships with them."
All in all, Fitzgerald said Saturday was a special day. He made a huge life decision and made himself and a lot of people around him happy. He chose to stay home.
"It's great. It's awesome," he said. "Words can't really describe it. It's a real weight lifted off of my shoulders."