Prospect quarterback Miles Osei expressed relief when he committed to Northern Illinois in December. He had taken his time with his decision, so he was confident the Huskies were the best available fit for him as a school and as a football program.
For Northern Illinois, it was also a key commitment. Osei was sought by a number of MAC teams that all saw the same thing: a future 6-foot-2 dual-threat star.
Then Illinois stepped in and complicated everything.
Osei had been recruited by Illinois for some time, but the Illini had never offered him a scholarship. He had given up on that ever happening and committed to Northern Illinois. But in January, Osei heard from Illinois again, and this time he was approached with a scholarship. Because Illini senior Eddie McGee would be making a permanent switch from quarterback to wide receiver in 2010, Illinois' staff decided to seek another quarterback recruit, and Osei was the target.
Osei was torn. Illinois was the school he favored, but he also didn't want to back out of his commitment to Northern Illinois. In the end, Osei chose to do what was best for himself. He picked up the phone and dialed Northern Illinois' coaches and told them he was sorry, but he was going to Illinois.
"I do try and keep my word with everyone," Osei said. "It was definitely a hard phone call to make. I talked to [offensive coordinator Matt] Limegrover first. He took it kind of hard. He said, 'I wasn't expecting this.' [Head] coach [Jerry] Kill took it pretty hard, too, and said that he wished I would have went there. We ended the phone call on a good note. He said if I ever changed my mind, their door was open. Not a lot of schools would have said that."
"Miles is a kid who integrity is important to him," Pearlman said. "Recruiting is a business, and a lot of things happen. When Illinois came back in, that was one of the dilemmas he had to come to grips with. We talked about it. A lot of things happen in recruiting that don't happen in life. You have to make the best decision for you."
The main advantage of Illinois over Northern Illinois for Osei was the actual school. Osei felt Illinois was a better fit.
As for football, Osei said he didn't see much of a difference.
"They're two programs on the rise," Osei said.
The one main difference might be Osei's opportunity for playing time. At Northern Illinois, he was highly sought after and was the lone quarterback committed. At Illinois, he was offered a scholarship late, and he is the second quarterback in the class after Downers Grove South's Chandler Whitmer, who was chosen to participate in the Elite 11 camp this past summer.
"I like the challenge," Osei said. "I think no matter where you go, you can't set yourself to a be a starter. I think at both places you have an opportunity to play. It's a matter of what you do with that opportunity."
Pearlman is confident Osei has the tools to be a Big Ten quarterback. He was Prospect's starting quarterback for three seasons and led the Knights to the playoffs each year. Over his last two seasons, he was among the best in the state. He threw for 4,498 yards and 38 touchdowns and ran for 2,426 yards and 39 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons combined.
There's also something else Pearlman can't exactly put his finger on.
"I just think he has the X factor," Pearlman said. "He's got 10 to 12 things that I can't describe to you. I can't put them on paper, but every time he steps on the field he does these things.
"He definitely took a step forward [this year]. What impressed me was his ability to grasp everything we were doing and make it his. He was definitely a better thrower this year, and he was a good thrower as a junior. He hit a lot of throws this year that a lot of kids just can't make. … There's only one Miles Osei in my coaching career."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.