May 5, 2008

Wilkes' will: academics, football

With letters arriving, coaches visiting, and scholarship offers all rolling into Jersey City, N.J., the recruitment of offensive guard Khalil Wilkes is definitely picking up.

The recruiting process, however, is just a part of Wilkes life. He doesn't make a big deal of it, but he knows that it's an endeavor that will help lead him to the next phase of his football- and academic-driven life.

"Right now I have 12 offers, with a few other schools showing some interest," Wilkes said. "Outside of that, I'm basically lifting weights trying to get stronger. Coaches are coming to see me work out."

Being able to think through the entire process allows a player not to become overwhelmed. A glance at Wilkes' GPA shows little will overwhelm the big lineman with a 3.5 in the classroom. When he finally sits down to work toward a decision, Wilkes will place academics high atop that pecking order.

"Academics is at the top of my list," Wilkes said. "I have my parents to thank for that. They got on me early and it set myself apart from others. It has opened up options and through that I've been able to stay in the books and it's paid off with offers from some big academic schools. Football can always be taken away, but they can't take away your mind."

Wilkes (6-foot-3, 285 pounds) moves well for a big offensive lineman and it's his footwork that coaches talk about.

"The thing that coaches tell me I do well is move my feet," Wilkes said. "I played a lot of sports growing up. I played basketball and baseball and everyone always said that I was very athletic for my size."

Wilkes received three more offers this past week, one of which was from Tennessee. He talked highly about a team that he is very familiar with.

"Tennessee is basically Tennessee," Wilkes said. "They play in the SEC and have a great program. The school spirit is unreal with 100,000 people coming to their games. They produce a lot of good players. Outside of that, I'm trying to figure out the academics. I saw it was good and that they have a good business program."

Wilkes' teammate, Nyshier Oliver, was in Knoxville over the weekend to check out the Vols and told Wilkes that Tennessee was out in front for now.

"He said it was his favorite school so far," Wilkes said. "He had nothing but good things to say. He loved it. He really loved the coaching staff."

Wilkes, who has a personal best bench press of 335 pounds and squats up to 525 pounds, has a set of things he's looking for in his future home.

"I want a good football program with coaches that are stable," Wilkes said. "The environment is also important and I want to be around people you can love."

That home could be decided on before the summer is out. Wilkes wants to make a decision before his senior year begins in the fall.

"It's about feeling comfortable," Wilkes said. "If I feel comfortable then I'm going to try and end things early. I want to concentrate on my senior year and hopefully win state."

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