CHAMPAIGN — As the Missouri Class 3 state championship game wore on last December, Trinity Catholic coach Terrence Curry saw a formula come to light.
On a team loaded with Division I talent from top to bottom, including University of Illinois quarterback signee Isaiah Williams, giving the ball to running back Reggie Love III kept working. He rushed 19 times for 203 yards and a touchdown and shrugged off the defenders that Cardinal Ritter threw at him.
Of course, Trinity went on to win the state championship behind Love's big day, and Love went on to give a verbal commitment to Illinois for the 2020 class, jumping on an expressway from Trinity Catholic to Champaign.
Curry, who played college football at Missouri, saw his do-it-all, four-star back take the opportunity and dash off with it in the championship game.
“He took that moment and ran with it," Curry said. "In life, when you get those opportunities, you can squander them or take it and run with it. He took it and ran with it and made a big name for himself."
The days following Love's verbal commitment to play football at Illinois got "better and better."
On April 7, following a junior day visit to Champaign, Love announced his commitment to the program via Twitter. He's the second member of the 2020 class, joining Chicago Marist wide receiver Jadon Thompson. Previously, Chicago Simeon offensive lineman Marcus Harper II, who de-committed from the program on Saturday night, was also part of the class.
"When you come on visits to Illinois, everything outweighs how they played on paper — the records," Love said. "The coaches, the atmosphere here are just great."
To Love, Illinois felt like a perfect fit. He's heard several of the top programs in the country make their pitch to him. They have a vision for how he would fit into their offense. It was all well and good to hear. But when Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith made a similar pitch to Love, a four-star running back, there was a feeling of sincerity.
“Sometimes it’s a good thing to hear, when you know it’s real, like when it came from Coach Rod, he told me, ‘What we run here is basically like what you run at Trinity. You’ll be familiar with it,'" Love said during the Illinois spring football game. "I feel like we can do special things with what he said."
Love rushed 76 times for 539 rushing yards and six touchdowns last season and chose the Illini over offers from Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Purdue, Louisville, Arkansas, TCU, Penn State, Minnesota and Nebraska. He's the No. 6-rated player in Missouri, according to 247Sports.
“I can be dynamic at all different aspects," Love said. "At Trinity I had to carry the ball, catch the ball a little bit. … Just being a complete back for my school. I feel like I can do everything a running back should be able to do."
The Trinity Catholic offense was full of Division I talent, with both William and Illini target Mookie Cooper also focal points for Trinity. Still, Love posted big numbers on an otherwise loaded offense. He has potential to be a feature back in Rod Smith's offense.
“You’ve got so many guys around you," Curry said. "You might touch the ball a fraction of the time that you would on another team. You look at a kid like Reggie, the biggest thing I liked about him was that he had a couple of older guys in front of him running the ball. He never complained. Never whined. He was a team-player and when his time came he took advantage of it."