If it wasn't for the gentle nudging of Lee Ann Fedorowicz, her son likely would have committed to Ohio State or Iowa instead of Illinois. So Illini Nation should add her to its Christmas card list because Illini coach Ron Zook hadn't shown any interest in the nation's top-rated tight end until his mother became Illinois' biggest booster.
Johnsburg's C.J. Fiedorowicz wanted to join a football program that had a reputation for passing the ball. He didn't want to be a blocking tight end. He wanted to be a pass-catching tight end. Ohio State and Iowa were his favorites. He was waiting for Ohio State coach Jim Tressel to promise that he would be an important factor in the Buckeyes' offense. If he did, it appeared that Fiedorowicz would commit on the spot.
Then C.J.'s mother had another idea.
"He was going to Illinois for a 7-on-7 camp," she recalled. "I suggested that we go down to Champaign a day earlier to look at the school. Illinois hadn't showed much interest in him and he hadn't shown much interest in them (the Illini ranked no better than fifth or sixth on his list of six finalists at the time). But I thought it wouldn't do any harm to get a good look at his state school."
C.J. couldn't have been more impressed if Red Grange and Dick Butkus had greeted him on the Quadrangle.
"Within two hours I fell in love with the coaches and the facilities," C.J. said. "I only needed one visit to know I wanted to go there. It took two or three visits to get the same feeling at the other schools that I had at Illinois."
What else did he feel that he hadn't felt earlier? Why did he think Illinois hadn't shown any interest after the 2009 season, after he was named to the Chicago Sun-Times All-Area team and analyst Tom Lemming had tapped him as the No. 1 tight end in the nation?
"New coaches had come in," he said. "Mike Schultz (from TCU) is the new tight ends coach and offensive coordinator. I liked him right away. He said the tight end would be part of the offense--and I was looking for an offense that was going to throw to the tight end.
"I also hung out with players on the team and felt I knew them. I'm close with (Illini recruit) Chandler Whitmer (of Downers Grove South). We spent time at the recreation center where the players hang out after practice. I knew Illinois would be the one. I didn't have to wait any longer. I was ready to make my decision."
The 6-7, 250-pounder with 4.5 speed said he relieved that he had finally made his decision. Now he enjoy the rest of his summer, doesn't have to worry about the recruiting process any longer and will continue to work with a speed coach to prepare for his senior season.
He said he might take one or two more visits because he isn't familiar with the recruiting process and wants to know what it is all about. "But I'm 100 percent sure I'm going to Illinois. Once I committed, I felt good," he said.
Fiedorowicz is one of the most proficient athletes in state history. He also is an outstanding basketball player (good enough to land offers from Indiana and Wisconsin) and was a standout sprinter on the track team. He chose track over baseball last spring but his 91 m.p.h. fastball once attracted major league scouts.
"The Milwaukee Brewers came to one game to watch me," he said. "But they realize I'm a football player. That's what I want to do."