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Illinois Football Staff “Very Easy to Connect With”

I caught up with Tanner on Wednesday to learn more about the Jayhawk State defensive back



Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports (IMAGIN)

Illinois Football Staff “Very Easy to Connect With”

Illinois Football received a commitment on Tuesday from 3-star-rated defensive back Tanner Heckel. The young man is a late addition to the 2024 Illinois class out of Lyndon High School in Eastern Kansas. Lyndon, like many teams in the region, plays 8-man football. Tanner was not only able to lead his Tigers to the 8-man state championship game but secured the win and an undefeated season. As well as 8-man player of the year in the state of Kansas. Certainly an impressive arsenal of accomplishments. Bret Bielema has had his fair share of sleeper recruits, that develop into high-level NFL talent. Certainly, Tanner will work to be one of the next guys up.

Bielema’s Comments

A press conference was held on Wednesday to dive into National Signing Day. News around the class of 2024 can now legally be discussed, and Bielema took to the podium to discuss Tanner, among others. Bielema described Tanner as “A guy that really is a dynamic player in a lot of different ways. On the football field, and also in other of different sports.” says Bielema. “He causes a lot of damage. His body does a lot of things naturally and instinctively that you can’t coach.” says the Illini headman.

Highlights and Comments from Bielema

Comments from Heckel

I caught up with Tanner on Wednesday to learn more about the Jayhawk State defensive back. The man responsible for 2,313 yards rushing, 1062 yards passing, and 69 total touchdowns as the Tigers Quarterback. When asked what set the Illini apart, “The people and coaching staff were amazing and very easy to connect with.” says Heckel. “They were very upfront and honest, and wanted me. They were betting on me, rather than me having to bet on myself.” A high priority to Tanner.

When a player is a Swiss army tool in High School, it is typically hard to decipher where exactly they will settle in college. For Heckel, it is in Aaron Henry’s secondary. “I see myself playing in the DB role. I would say I am a smart fundamental player that likes to hit and make plays.” Which, is backed by Bielema’s comments of Tanner playing with natural, raw power and instinct. All qualities are sought after within this program, and Tanner possesses these traits. As a kicker, I asked Tanner who his favorite athlete, is and what kind of influence they give. Tanners Answer, NBA star Russel Westbrook. “He played for OKC, which was my favorite NBA team when I was younger, and our styles of play are quite similar.” according to Heckel.



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Kirkland is a go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He is the lead Football analyst at Armchair Illini and has been featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, Yard Barker, Autograph, Newsbreak, CBS Sports and more.