Evan Panfil follows family tradition

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If Evan Panfil’s supportive family had its way, the Lincoln-Way Central senior would have committed to Purdue University the day he was born.

It’s no wonder.

Panfil’s grandfather, Ken, and uncle, Vince, both played football for the Boilermakers.

Panfil’s mother, Vonni, and aunt, Lynne, are Purdue graduates. A cousin, Kasey Fell, is currently attending the university.

There was one problem, though: Purdue wasn’t showing interest in Panfil, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound defensive end.

Panfil verbally committed to Illinois in January, with every intention of being a part of the rebuilding process through which the struggling program is currently going.

He liked everything about the school: the high academic standards, the campus, the facilities.

However, what Panfil liked most was the relationship he had developed with Keith Gilmore, the Fighting Illini’s defensive line coach.

“He was the main reason I chose Illinois,” said Panfil, who had 55 tackles and nine sacks his senior season.

Gilmore, however, accepted a similar position at the end of January with the University of North Carolina.

Panfil began to have second thoughts about his commitment.

“That really got me to thinking,” Panfil said. “There’s some coaching uncertainty at Illinois. What’s going to happen the next four or five years?”

Coincidentally, there was no such uncertainty at Purdue, which hired Darrell Hazell in December as its coach.

About the time Panfil had verbally committed to Illinois, Purdue began to show interest and eventually made a scholarship offer.

Then Gilmore up and left.

“That’s when I really began second-guessing my decision to Illinois,” Panfil said.

The allure of following in his family’s footsteps, along with the security of a new coaching staff, proved too tempting for Panfil, who decommitted from Illinois and on Wednesday signed with Purdue.

“Purdue is the place for me,” said Panfil, who plans to major in business. “I appreciate everything Illinois did for me. I honestly was 100-percent committed to Illinois. If coach Gilmore was still there, I’m going to Illinois. But I had to do what’s best for me.”

Which in turn made his family very happy.

“The pressure from my family was ridiculous,” said Panfil, with a laugh. “I called it ‘Purdue pressure.’ These were a couple of the most stressful weeks of my life.

“My family is beyond happy. I’ve been going to games at Purdue since I was a little kid. They’re putting together a heck of a coaching staff. I’m excited to be a part of it. I’m excited to be a Boilermaker.”

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