High school football: Kenwood star K’Vion Thunderbird signs with Arizona State

At a time when college coaches often look to the transfer portal first, and when high school prospects continue to pitch offers and visit after signing, K’Vion Thunderbird stands out from the crowd.

The vast majority of prep football stars finalize their college choices early in the signing phase in December, sometimes for different programs than they originally intended.

But Thunderbird, a three-star linebacker from Kenwood, took his time getting his pick right. He signed on less than a week before signing with Arizona State on Wednesday, the first day of football’s late signing period.

“It’s been a very stressful recruiting process,” said Thunderbird, who is the No. 20 senior in Illinois and the No. 78 linebacker nationally, according to the 247Sports consensus. “I’m just glad it’s over.”

With 20 offers, he had many options, including four each from the SEC (Auburn, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee) and the Big Ten (Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State and Purdue).

For a while it looked like Thunderbird’s destination would be Oregon. “It was definitely an option, a big option,” he said.

But then Ducks offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, a rising star in the industry, left the country to return as head coach at his alma mater in Arizona state.

“He was an important factor in my recruiting process,” Thunderbird said, and he eventually decided to follow Dillingham to Tempe.

But the head coach wasn’t the only draw for the Sun Devils.

“The whole city is amazing,” Thunderbird said. “The people down there, the players, the fans, everyone. It’s just a nice atmosphere.”

Kenwood trainer Sinque Turner, who played with Thunderbird’s father Kevin at Simeon under legendary trainer Al Scott, has known the younger Thunderbird pretty much his entire life. That level of familiarity and his belief in Thunderbird’s capabilities made him confident that holding back to sign up in February wouldn’t leave his star player out in the cold.

“Absolutely,” Turner said. “We [were] convenient to make him wait beyond December. There were a couple of schools in the group of five where he was top of the list and they would have been a pretty good security blanket.

“But he wasn’t a misleading boy at all. So he made no commitments from which he would withdraw. He was just honest throughout the process and then got what he deserved.”

Turner thinks the 6-1, 215-pound Thunderbird is a good match for the Sun Devils and the Pac-12. “Just his stature, more of a lean linebacker — that’s more of a passing league,” Turner said. “I think he’s going to be a…potential all-conference guy after his sophomore year.”

That success is something Thunderbird has dreamed of since he started playing football as a 7-year-old with the Southside Wolverines’ youth program.

“I just kept God around me,” Thunderbird said. “I just prayed every night. … Everything just worked out. Everything happens for a reason.”

Howard picks badgers

Marist three-star defensive tackle Jamel Howard, the only other top-30 unsigned senior in Illinois, travels to Wisconsin.

The 6-3, 320-pounder had signed to the Badgers but reopened his enlistment after the school changed coaches.

Ranked 26th among Illinois seniors, Howard also had offers from Michigan, LSU, Miami and Illinois, among others.

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