MAHOMET — Daunte Roberts and Connor Thomason aren't sick of each other just yet. Roberts and Thomason both committed to McKendree University last weekend after traveling to the campus for official visits.
"It was definitely exciting to be up there with the coaches again," Thomason said. "After a great talk and a great offer, it was just too good to pass up. It felt like home."
Thomason led the Bulldogs with eight interceptions last fall. He was one of the top ballhawks in the area, and he was sixth on the team with 37 tackles. McKendree is planning to keep him at safety, but the Bearcats could shift him to nickel. Even a little playing time at wide receiver is possible. Thomason contributed 13 catches for 225 yards last year.
Thomason was named first-team All-Area by The News-Gazette after his huge season. Roberts was an honorable mention All-Area selection. The linebacker was a two-time first-team All-Apollo Conference selection. Roberts led the Bulldogs with 84 tackles. He added 7.0 tackles for a loss.
Roberts is likely going to spend next year redshirting so he can bulk up to around 210 pounds and play inside linebacker.
"I think I can be a good commit for their defense and do the same things I did in high school," Roberts said. "Just want to keep offenses out of the end zone."
McKendree is a Division II program that's located in Lebanon, just 25 minutes from St. Louis. McKendree plays in the Great Lakes Valley Conference and went 6-5 last season.
Thomason and Roberts are a part of a big-time recruiting class. Stars from Paxton-Buckley-Loda, Tuscola and other central Illinois programs have committed alongside the two Bulldogs.
"I really believe this freshman class is some animals and one of the best they've ever had," Thomason said. "We've been talking about the culture we want to start. We want to make it a defensive edge. McKendree has been known as an offensive team. We don't want that anymore. We want to change it."
It'll be a family reunion for Thomason. His older brother, Kenny, is finishing up his redshirt-freshman season for McKendree. Kenny Thomason is in line to be a starter on the offensive line next fall after starring for the Bulldogs from 2013-17.
"Family was big in the decision," Connor Thomason said. "Since me and Kenny were little kids, we talked about playing college football together. At the end of the day, it's what our mom would have wanted."
In 2011, Connor and Kenny Thomason's mom, Deborah Leganger-Thomason, died of a sudden heart attack. Katrina Roberts, Daunte's mom, stepped in and helped the Thomasons. The bond between Thomason and Roberts remains strong.
"His mom was my mom's best friend," Thomason said. "After I lost my mom, his mom was there for me and his mom was like my mom. My mom would be proud that we all followed each other."
Roberts, Connor and Kenny Thomason will all have a chance to help McKendree possibly become one of the better Division II programs in the country.
"It will be special," Daunte Roberts said. "It'll feel weird because I haven't played with Kenny since sophomore year. It'll be good to play with the boys again and play with some new guys and start a new family."