East St. Louis defensive back James Knight is the latest metro-east high school athlete to give his college commitment to the University of Illinois.
In the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Knight, head football coach Lovie Smith and the Fighting Illini, will be getting a physical, but versatile player who helped the Flyers win the Illinois Class 7A championship on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
The verbal commitment was first reporter by Jeremy Werner of the Illinois Inquirer web site. East St. Louis Athletic Director Leonard Manly confirmed it.
Knight caught five passes for 137 yards, four of them for touchdowns. But as a linebacker and defensive back, he registered a team-high 144 tackles with five sacks and an interception.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
The three-star recruit was selected by area coaches as a BND All-Area first team linebacker, but likely will play safety in Champaign. He’ll join former East Side teammate, Stanley Green, a cornerback for the Illini. He also had an offer from Western Michigan.
Knight follows a long tradition of East St. Louis players who have continued their careers at Illinois, including All-American linebacker Dana Howard and cornerback Terry Hawthorne, among others. He also follows behind classmate Jeremiah Tilmon and Belleville East senior Javon Pickett, who both have signed national letters of intent to play basketball with the Illini.
Reyondous Estes, the Flyers’ quarterback the last three seasons, made a verbal commitment to Missouri over the summer, but has since told the Belleville News-Democrat that he’ll leave his options open come the next signing period, which begins Feb. 1.
Estes, who passed for 2,464 yards and 26 touchdowns, has said Illinois might be a good fit.
Illinois also has consistently been on a changing list of options for East St. Louis wide receiver Jeff Thomas, who, following the Flyers’ win over Plainfield North for their eighth state championship, said he had narrowed his picks down to the Illini and Alabama. According to his own Twitter account, Miami also is a consideration.
Five other players have been identified by East St. Louis head coach Darren Sunkett as potential Division-I prospects including linebackers Ken Dixon (111 tackles, 10 sacks, interception), Terrez Lagrone (75 tackles, 4 sacks), and LaMontre Harvey (112 tackles, 11 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries) as well as defensive backs Markevion Darough (82 tackles, 3 interceptions) and Tayler Cook (81 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions).