Kenwood star K’Vion Thunderbird signs with Arizona State

K’Vion Thunderbird, a three-star linebacker, took his time in order to get his choice right

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Kenwood’s K’vion Thunderbird (6) blocks Glenbard North’s Justin Bland (1).

Kenwood’s K’vion Thunderbird (6) blocks Glenbard North’s Justin Bland (1).

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

In an age when college coaches often look to the transfer portal first and when high school prospects continue to tout offers and take visits after committing, K’Vion Thunderbird stands out from the crowd.

The vast majority of prep football standouts finalize their college choices in the December early signing period, sometimes to different programs than they originally committed to.

But Thunderbird, a three-star linebacker from Kenwood, took his time in order to get his choice right. He committed less than a week before signing with Arizona State on Wednesday, the first day of the late signing period for football.

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

He had plenty of options with 20 offers, 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 profession, left to return to Arizona State, his alma mater, as head coach.

“He was a big factor in my recruiting process,” Thunderbird said, and he ultimately 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, everybody. It’s just a beautiful atmosphere.”

Kenwood coach Sinque Turner, who played with Thunderbird’s dad Kevin at Simeon under legendary coach Al Scott, has known the younger Thunderbird pretty much the latter’s whole life. That level of familiarity, plus his belief in Thunderbird’s ability, made him confident that holding off to sign in Feburary wouldn’t leave his star player out in the cold.

“Absolutely,” Turner said. “We [were] comfortable allowing him to wait past December. There were a couple Group of Five schools where he was at the top of their list and they would have been a pretty good security blanket.

“But he wasn’t a misleading kid at all. So he didn’t make any commitments to decommit from. He just was honest all the way through the whole process and then he got what he deserved.”

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

That level of 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,” Thunderbird said. “I just prayed every night. ... It just all 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, is heading to Wisconsin.

The 6-3, 320-pounder had committed to the Badgers but reopened his recruiting 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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