DETROIT — In one corner in the recruitment of DeJuan Rogers was the University of Toledo, the school that Cass Tech defensive back gave a non-binding commitment last summer.
In the other was Illinois, the Big Ten program led by former Toledo coach Tim Beckman that appeared to trump the Rockets in recent weeks as the favorite to land the three-star prospect.
"It’s kind of crazy because it’s like, they’re going at each other," Rogers said.
Not even his coach was sure which way Rogers was leaning Monday — two days before National Signing Day — as he wrote down names of the 10 Cass Tech players that are expected today to sign with a college program. When Thomas Wilcher, the long-time coach of the Technicians, got to Rogers, he laughed and said, "We’ll list Toledo for now."
The muscular 6-foot, 175-pound Rogers entered the weight room at the school moments later and cleared everything up.
"I picked Toledo because I felt comfortable there," Rogers said. "It felt like home and I had a good feeling about it."
Rogers, who started at safety for the 2012 Class A state champions, said he planned to phone Illinois coaches that evening to break the news.
Rogers said the battle between the staffs never got dirty or cheap. Illinois, which offered him a scholarship three weeks ago, tried to sell Rogers on playing in the Big Ten, which he admits was his "dream" growing up. Toledo, which has five coaches that worked at the school under Beckman, dangled the possibility of getting on the field next fall.
"I talked to him," said Kishon Wilcher, a sophomore defensive back at Toledo and the son of Cass Tech’s coach. "I just told him that Toledo is a good fit for him. It’s not a big school you can get lost in. It’s a school you can come and compete early. Illinois came late. Toledo has been there from the start, and they’re really looking forward to him playing early."
Rogers, a headliner in a class expected to rank atop the Mid-American Conference, is among four Cass Tech defensive backs that will sign with a FBS program, joining Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis and Delano Hill, and Eastern Michigan’s Daquan Pace. Another defensive back at the school, junior Damon Webb, is committed to Ohio State.
The school, located about a mile from Comerica Park, has produced 15 FBS defensive backs in the past six years.
"It gets to a point where guys are fighting for time on the practice field," coach Wilcher said.
Wilcher clarified, saying the fights are actually physical at times.
Fisticuffs never erupted between Illinois and Toledo, but their battle was spirited. And the underdog landed the deciding blow.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.