OL Shawn Afryl Holding Firm With Illini

Niles West (Scout)

Shawn Afryl was the first player to commit to Coach Ron Zook and the University of Illinois. With his high school season over, Afryl can look toward the future and his college career. The next time he suits up again to play football will be as a member of the Fighting Illini.

For Shawn Afryl, it wasn't always easy watching Illinois play. His future school had more downs than ups in a 3-8 season.

"It was painful in the sense that they have so much talent and didn't take advantage of that. They won big against Michigan and won close against Minnesota so they have the talent to win any game that they're in. I think they just committed too many penalties, which killed the momentum. They are a good football team, so it was a little rough."

Still, the 6'-3", 300 pound lineman remains resolute in his commitment.

"The only doubt was if the coaching staff was going to be there or not. I've never been on a winning football team in my life, so I know how difficult it is. If I can go in there and help them, then I want to be a part of that. I'm not going to leave when it gets rough."

When a college football team struggles, other schools may try to poach commitments.

"No one has called me. No has one contacted me because I think they realized how committed I am. I think that they know I plan on going to the University of Illinois no matter what."

Afryl will soon take his official visit though he's already taken several unofficial visits, including the last home game.

"I have to confirm my visit, but I'll be down there for my official visit in December for the banquet. I hope to get my conditioning regimen as well. I was also just down there for the Northwestern game."

The offensive lineman hopes to enroll early so he can get a jumpstart on the college game.

"It's a possibility. I just have to make sure this one class I'm taking will be accepted by the NCAA. That's the only thing I'm worried about right now. If I have the chance to enroll early, I'll take it in a heartbeat."

Afryl can relate to the season the Illini are having because his Niles West team struggled too. They finished 2-7 in the Central Suburban South, a conference that boasts Class 8A state champion Maine South. The Wolverines did finish their season with 21-14 win over Waukegan.

"A whole combination of things led to the bad season. We didn't close out close games. We didn't score points when we needed to score points, and we left our defense out to dry too much. Those are probably the major reasons for the bad season.

"We ran out of the shotgun, a lot of option plays, and we did some zones. We experimented a lot to get the offense going. It fluctuated week in and week out. We even tried to wildcat."

Despite the losing season, Afryl has become a better player.

"Yeah, I'd say I'm better now than before the season. I had to learn new positions so that helped me because I had to learn on the fly. I think that'll be useful in the future. I was originally a guard, but was moved to a tackle. It was a change the offensive line coach made. He wanted to switch up the guard and tackle situations. He didn't feel the tackles we had were the best ones. I played defense too."

Afryl suffered an injury toward the end of the season, but he didn't let that stop him from playing.

"I suffered a high ankle sprain during my homecoming game. It was the second to last game. I missed the majority of practice the following week.

"I suited up for the last game because I wasn't going to leave my team out to dry. We wouldn't have had a complete offensive line because we were real thin. We had a lot of injuries, and I wasn't going to leave the team like that. I made sure I was able to play through, and I only played offense that game.

"I'm rehabbing my ankle. Once I recover from that, I'll get back into my workouts and come into camp in the best shape possible whether I'm there in the spring or the summer."

Shawn Afryl's toughness will be a valued asset next year as he competes for a starting position on the offensive line.

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