At Wednesday's Core 6 Banquet, Erik Swenson was named Newcomer of the Year, a reward fitting of a freshman stepping in at the all important left tackle position, and not only starting, but dominating for the entirety of the season.
In the audience were many college coaches, coaches unable to talk to Swenson because of the rules, but nonetheless excited about his future. Illinois head coach Tim Beckman was one of those men, and on Friday, his Fighting Illini offered.
"This is really the first official, official offer," Erik's father Swen Swenson said.
Throughout the course of his recruitment, which will span the next three and a half years, Swenson will be called out of class frequently to meet with coaches, shake their hands, and let them see if he is truly his listed 6'7 (he is). However, on this day, the youngster could not quite figure out why he was being sent up to the office.
"It's been a pretty crazy day," he admitted. "I got called up during math. I was kind of confused. Usually, you don't get called down until after school or before, so my mind was rushing, but then I saw the Illinois coach in the office."
Swenson has received interest from schools across the country already, but to have the first offer come right from inside the state lines made it a little better.
"It was pretty cool and very exciting to see the home school take recognition in young players. It's very cool of Illinois to do that at such a young age."
Between the award on Wednesday and the offer on Friday, Swenson's profile is quickly rising, but the unassuming young prospect is happy just being a normal kid.
"He wasn't very happy that I posted it on Facebook about his first offer," Mr. Swenson said. "Like when he had to go up there the other day. He does not like the limelight. He's very happy and he knows his hard work pays off, but he's just as happy to have the award mailed to him."
The attention has always been there though, that's what happens when you're that much bigger than everyone else on the football field. It's also what happens when, because of that size, you're constantly forced to play against older competition and routinely get the best of them.
"Oh yeah, he's always been a head taller than everyone. He's always been a just a bigger kid and when he was little, they told him you kind of have to go easy. It's a double edge sword. He's been playing football since he was six, so he's been playing contact football for a long time and he's always played up with kids older than him. He played Naperville youth football, a great in-house football program, but by the time he was done with his 6th grade season, he was out of there, the weight limit was 185, so he was kicked out of the program."
Erik's size stands out to the casual observer and that is the obvious first thing people see, but what most don't realize is ability to think the game as well.
"He's always helped coaches put in plays and figure out things, just an ability he's always had. When something went wrong, coaches will ask, Erik what happened here, and he'll be able to explain it, so and so didn't pull right. His football acumen gets overlooked a lot. He's a big specimen physically, but I think if he didn't have that acumen, he wouldn't be able step in and play as a freshman. What's overlooked is his ability to make calls and figure out stuff."
If 2016, Erik's graduating year, seems far away, that's because it is. So to even begin thinking about where to go to college is equally as in the distance.
"Day by day," he says. "I haven't even finished half my freshman year. I don't even know which classes I'm going to be taking next year."
"You know, I think best way, the correct way for us is take it as it comes," his father added, "and just really have an open mind. Erik definitely has his favorites. He'd be lying to you if he said he doesn't find Michigan exciting, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Northwestern, to hear from them at an early age is very exciting, but he'll tell you flat out, he'll keep his options open. He realizes programs change, coaches change, teams change, all of that is going to change."
The Swensons have plenty of time to do what they need to do to put Erik in the best position to capitalize on his enormous potential. However, today's offer may have jump starter things a little more than they were expecting at this stage.
"The reaction today been pretty crazy," Swen admits. "My Facebook, PM, texting has been going off all day. It's been very exciting. We're making new contacts and new friends."