After going on three official visits last month to Illinois, Iowa and Washington State, Aidan Laughery narrowed his college decision down to two programs: the Illini and the Hawkeyes.
The Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley running back held a ceremony Wednesday evening at his high school to finally announce his verbal commitment. There was a hat for both Big Ten programs placed on a table that had been set up on the very same field Laughery has dominated on many times before.
So which one would he choose? The blue Illinois cap on his right or the yellow Iowa hat on his left?
After thanking all of his supporters, Laughery picked the former during a live broadcast on WCIA 3 News. He couldn't pass up the opportunity to continue his career at home.
"I think it really hit me last Saturday (July 10) after talking with coach (Bret Bielema)," Laughery told WCIA's Marlee Wierda. "He's the guy I want to play for, and I want to put everything I've got into my hometown team."
Bielema, who is in his first year at Illinois, has placed a heavy emphasis on in-state recruiting, and Laughery is the latest example of that. The 5-foot-11, 188-pound running back is the Illini's eighth in-state recruit and 14th overall recruit in the Class of 2022.
According to 247Sports composite rankings, Laughery, known for his breakaway speed, is a three-star prospect. He is rated as the No. 18 overall player in Illinois, the No. 76 athlete (utility player) in the country and the No. 907 overall prospect nationally in his recruiting class.
Laughery also held scholarship offers from Michigan State, Minnesota and Rutgers. However, he told The News-Gazette's Colin Likas that Illinois' constant communication is what set the Illini apart, which was a welcome change from the previous coaching staff. Former Illinois coach Lovie Smith, who also offered Laughery a scholarship, was fired in December 2020 after going 17-39 in five seasons.
"Not to speak negatively on anybody else, but before this new staff, (the constant communication) was definitely not a thing," Laughery said. "To be honest, if Coach B and his staff wouldn't have came here, I probably wouldn't have came here."
Laughery is the Illini's second running back recruit in the Class of 2022, joining fellow three-star, in-state prospect Jordan Anderson of Joliet Catholic.
"It's the place to be, I think," Laughery told WCIA's Andy Olson. "Everybody there says they feel something special coming, and I feel that, too, and I'm buying into that and I want to be a part of it."
🏈 16 NFL stars with Illini roots
Geronimo Allison // WR
James Crawford // LB
Clayton Fejeldem // SAF
Josh Ferguson // RB
Justin Hardee // DB
Michael Hoomanawanui // TE
Ted Karras // OG
Matt LaCosse // TE
Corey Liuget // DE
Whitney Mercilus // DE
Hardy Nickerson Jr. // LB
Carroll Phillips // DE
Dawuane Smoot // DE
Akeem Spence // DT
Jihad Ward // DE
Tavon Wilson // FS
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