An outside observer might look at the process that ended with Joliet Catholic linebacker Malachi Hood giving a commitment to the University of Illinois as a quick one.
And while Hood realizes the speed from offer to acceptance was indeed fast, the process – like for many high school athletes during the pandemic – was anything but simple.
Hood is considered a rising prospect in the Class of 2022, but because of the NCAA’s extended non-contact period during the pandemic, Hood was unable to work out for interested schools until the non-contact period finally was lifted at the beginning of June and athletes were permitted to visit college campuses.
Hood (6-2, 210) immediately had plenty of suitors, but the one that was most active throughout the spring was Illinois, pledging to get him on campus the moment he was allowed to visit.
“There was obviously the dead period, but they were consistently telling me that they wanted me there,” Hood said. “Sure enough, as soon as the dead period was over, June 1 at 10 a.m., I was on their campus working out. They were impressed with my speed and size. And they brought me in to Coach (Brett Bielema’s) office and they offered me a scholarship.”
Hood said he was grateful the Fighting Illini coaching staff showed their commitment, offering him ahead of other players from out-of-state that they also had worked out. It was a show of faith in Hood’s abilities that made it easier for him to sign on the proverbial dotted line even before other interested schools had the opportunity to make a full pitch.
Hood will join his Joliet Catholic teammate, junior running back Jordan Anderson, in Champaign. Anderson made a commitment to the Illini earlier this spring. The duo makes eight recruits inked by Illinois for the Class of 2022, including five in-state players.
“At the official visit Coach B sat me down and told me that they had worked out a player from Ohio that was highly thought off and they worked him out the same way they worked me out, but they didn’t offer him a scholarship because I was their guy,” Hood said. “He told me that I was the linebacker they wanted to take from this class, and that I’m an in-state kid. That stuck with me because it showed that they don’t care about the rankings. They know what they saw in me, and that was really important to me.”
It also didn’t hurt that Anderson was talking up the Illinois program to his friend and teammate as well.
“Oh, he was in my ear,” Hood said. “He knows that they’d been talking to me for a long time. He was telling me the whole time that he knew I was going to get the offer, and when you get it you better commit. It was kind of a joke, until it wasn’t.”
Hood now goes from being recruited to being a recruiter, hoping to entice more talented players to join him in Champaign.
“I’m very relieved. Last week I came into the week not even knowing if I was going to get the chance to play Division I football and not knowing what my next four years was going to be like,” Hood said. “Now I can just focus on trying to get the best talent in the state to come to Champaign with me. Not focusing on getting film out there, just focusing on helping my team win games next year.”