Ever spend two hours in a one-on-one conversation with Ron Zook in your living room?
The first thing you notice about Illinois' head football coach is he is a charmer. And that's a compliment. It goes a long way toward explaining why he is one of the leading recruiters in the country.
I've been in the presence of some very successful salesmen over the years, from Illinois' Pete Elliott to Notre Dame's Lou Holtz to Indiana's Bob Knight. But Zook has a different approach.
He isn't as folksy as Holtz, not as urbane as Elliott and not as profane as Knight. They were effective in their own way. Zook listens and makes his audience as comfortable as an old lounge chair but you always feel as though he has a message to get across.
When he's through and he shakes your hand and bids a fond adieu, you wonder how any 18-year-old can look him in the eye and say: "Coach, I like what you say. But I'm going to Michigan." Judging by his recent rate of success, very few can.
He is well-versed in what it takes to be successful in the coaching profession, how to sell his program and his university, how to schmooze the media, cater to alumni and juggle the delicate balancing act between recruiting in-state players and blue chippers from Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, North Carolina and Georgia.
Zook has been through the wars, the turmoil of fireronzook.com at the University of Florida and unsubstantiated accusations of cheating while recruiting his first class at Illinois. He understands that is part of the game, fair or not.
He doesn't want to comment on negative recruiting or "bad-mouthing," the practice of one school trying to persuade a prospect to drop another school from consideration by alleging more sins than Sodom and Gomorrah. But he claims it is worse this season than ever before.
"I guess you have to take it as a compliment," he said. "If they are trying to ruin your recruiting, if they are coming after you, it must mean you are doing something right, that you are being successful."