Darius Mosely got his college football commitment out of the way early, choosing Illinois last June.
And even though the Illini struggled through a 2-10 season, the O'Fallon High School senior remains firm in his desire to be in Champaign for his college experience.
"It was tough and I did have some second thoughts, but then I realized that I can go in and try to help change the program," said Mosely, chosen Belleville News-Democrat Large-School (Class 5A-8A) Football Co-Player of the Year by area coaches along with Belleville West senior linebacker Pierre Gee-Tucker. "I'm looking forward to taking that challenge."
Mosely said his friends gave him a hard time as the Illini losses mounted.
"Yeah they were, still are," Mosely said. "I just told them things will change once the 2013 class gets in there. Just wait and see."
A big reason Mosely, who will graduate from O'Fallon at the end of the winter semester and begin attending classes in Champaign in January, stayed with Illinois was Illini senior cornerback Terry Hawthorne, a former News-Democrat Large-School Football Player of the Year.
Mosely got to see Hawthorne play for East St. Louis during the Flyers' Class 7A state championship season in 2008 and he's been following him ever since.
"He's a good role model, being able to come out of East St. Louis and do well up there," said Mosely, who excelled at wide receiver and defensive back for the Panthers while also carrying a 3.5 grade-point average. "I used to go to their games all the time. It was amazing watching those guys play with all that speed and all that talent around. It was awesome."
Mosely (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) is headed to Illinois as a cornerback, but says the coaching staff also floated the possibility of playing some receiver as well.
He leaves O'Fallon as the school's all-time record-holder in nine categories: career touchdown receptions (15), single-season TD receptions (tied at 10); single-game TD receptions (three, vs. Homewood-Flossmoor), single-season receptions (69), career receptions (112), single-game receptions (tied with 10 vs. Edwardsville), career receiving yards (1,791), single-season receiving yards (1,126), single-game receiving (172 yards vs. Belleville West).
O'Fallon was 8-3 this season, losing to LaGrange Lyons 42-27 in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs.
As the focal point of O'Fallon's record-setting offense this season, Mosely had 69 catches for 1,096 yards and 10 TDs, adding three more TDs on kickoff and punt returns.
Not since the day when high school All-American and future major league baseball player Homer Bush was catching passes for East St. Louis has a Southwestern Conference receiver approached those kinds of numbers.
Among Mosely's best games were three TD catches and nine catches for 170 yards in a 37-35 playoff win over Homewood-Flossmoor and nine catches for 172 yards against Belleville West.
"He has that innate ability to find the open space and find away to get open," Joggerst said. "If we could get him in a one-on-one situation, we liked our odds."
Against Granite City, Mosely returned a kickoff 99 yards for a TD, caught two more TD passes and finished the day with six catches for 135 yards.
"I just took it into my mind that when I stepped on the field, there was just nobody that could guard me," Mosely said, and the impressive numbers he produced bear that out.
"To put up the stats he did in a 10-game season is pretty crazy," said O'Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst, noting his 8-3 team's schedule included a forfeit win in their second game. "They'll never be broken for a while."
Mosely also had 33 tackles and an interception at defensive back.
Joggerst said Mosely had that rare quality of making everyone around him better.
"I thought he brought the other players around him up to a higher level," Joggerst said. "He's very positive on the field and he practices so hard. ... That's something that helped with our success.
"People fed off of him and it was important for him to stay positive."
Mosely quickly pointed out how the talent possessed by the players around him forced teams to deal with everyone, not just him.
Quarterback Todd Porter earned first-team All-Area honors, with receivers Greg Gibson and Tae'Mon Franklin and running back Kentrail Moran being named second-team All-Area.
"It was a great experience, we've just got talent everywhere," Mosely said. "Some teams would game plan to stop Mosely, but once they tried to do that you've got Greg that's stepping up and Todd running out of the pocket and others. Everybody made plays."
Porter, who has a scholarship offer from Florida Atlantic among his 15 Division I offers, threw for a school-record 3,009 yards this season. He also holds school records for career yardage (6,281) and career TD passes (45), while setting 13 school passing records overall.
Mosely and Porter were part of what became a superior senior class.
"I think we realized very quickly the summer of his sophomore year that he was a starter from day one," Joggerst said of Mosely. "At that time we hadn't started a sophomore in a few years and he came in with a couple other guys and from day one, they were starters.
"Darius and Todd grew up together, went to the same junior high and everything. They were always on the same page."
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.