Editor's note: This story is from July 7, 2009.
Niles West senior-to-be Shawn Afryl is a man with a plan.
"I want to go to college, major in secondary education, minor in political science, become a high school history and sociology teacher and a coach," he said.
The 6-foot-3, 310-pounder is also one of the state's top linemen in the Class of 2010, and he has a good idea about how he wants his football career to progress.
That is why Afryl chose not to drag out his college decision. He made a verbal commitment to Illinois in early April, selecting the school over Wisconsin and Purdue.
Recently, Afryl has decided to get a jump on his freshman season by graduating from Niles West a semester early and enrolling in school in Champaign in January 2010.
It's a step more and more top football players are taking, and it gives them a chance to get acclimated to in the classroom and participate in spring practice ahead of their first season
"The first time I heard the idea, I was not too fond of it," Afryl said. "But I kept thinking of the benefits and that I'd be wasting my time second semester. I'll miss track and field (where he finished third in the sectional in shot put last season). But there is no point in my bumming around high school when I can get a head start on things. I'm ready."
Afryl, who expects to play center in college, said he was impressed with the full campus tour he received during his Junior Day visit in March, something that was not offered at Purdue. He also described Fighting Illini offensive line coach Joe Gilbert as "someone I could deal with every day."
The decision was not an entirely selfish one, however. Afryl said he also felt making an early commitment would allow him to fully dedicate himself to a Niles West football program that, at the time, was without a head coach. He expects to play multiple positions on both lines.
The school has since handed the reins to last year's offensive coordinator Scott Baum, and Afryl said he is trying to do everything in his power to help the first-year coach have early success.
"It's a big relief (having made the decision)," Afryl said. "Now I don't have to worry about going to college visits, I can take time to help the other linemen and kids on the team with their technique. I can to help us get better as a football team, and we can make a nice run and change our losing ways."
Baum, who hopes to improve on last year's 3-6 mark, said Afryl's commitment to the program is genuine.
"(In summer workouts) Shawn is one first kids there in the morning and one of the last to leave," said Baum. "He's one of the first to help someone and I couldn't be happier with the summer and how he's taking the leadership role.
"A lot of guys say (they want to lead), but he's doing it and working in the weight room and busting his tail there and on the track. It translates to being successful. He had a great year last year and we all expect him to be more dominant this year, and be a factor on both sides of the ball."