Otto Hess received the first awakening into his football future during a chute drill his sophomore year.
"I wasn't doing too well, hit my head at the top of the chute, one guy stands at the end anticipating angles and I took a guy off of his feet," said Hess, an Oswego junior. "My coach said after that 'You're going to get a D1 scholarship' and I said 'I'm not even good, I don't know what you're talking about.' He made me believe it was possible."
That coach indeed knew what he was talking about.
Hess, ending a recruitment process that ironically took off the last two months during the state's stay-at-home order, made his verbal commitment to Boston College on Tuesday.
Hess, a 6-foot-7, nearly 300-pound left tackle, chose Boston College from 20 offers including Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, Virginia and Western Michigan.
Boston College offered Hess on April 6, among a flurry of scholarship offers since March.
"The minute they offered me, I knew they were a top school I was looking at. It was never a question," Hess said. "They were always real, helped me with anything I needed, they did more than check all the boxes. It was a perfect fit."
Hess, a three-star recruit and the 27th-ranked player in Illinois' Class of 2021, received his first Power Five offer on Feb. 19, from Virginia. Things took off from there, even though Indiana is the only Power Five school Hess has met with in person.
"I wasn't negatively affected at all by the lockdown; it might have helped me," Hess said. "Coaches had more time to sit down and evaluate film. I think it diversified the recruiting pool. It might have helped kids that normally wouldn't get a shot."
Hess had originally intended to wait on a decision until he could make a visit to his school of choice, but ultimately went back on that ultimatum.
"Part of me wanted to prolong it, to go on a visit, but by last Sunday I was ready to make a decision," Hess said. "I was done being on an island; I was ready to be a part of a group."
It culminated a journey for Hess that began in the sixth grade. His mom, a single mom, didn't have time to get him to practice, but he was one of the biggest kids and she made it work. His team went 0-9, but in seventh grade he switched to Pop Warner, playing up with the eighth-graders.
The next year, collisions with future Oswego teammate David Wilson turned a light on.
"He'd light me up on kickoffs," Hess said. "He turned me around, gave me big hits. I wanted to give out the hits, not be so nice. Eighth grade was the first year I really liked football."
Hess, long only the third-biggest kid in his grade, had a growth spurt of six and a half inches from Christmas eighth grade to midseason his freshman year. He stepped in at left tackle fourth game his freshman year, despite never taking a rep there before.
By the playoffs sophomore year Hess was up with the varsity.
"Had a lot of great mentors," Hess said. "Jack Hugunin was awesome, just to have him in the program at the same time. He would throw me around. I would get him a couple times but not a lot. He made me better and kept me grounded."
Hess hopes he'll continue to play left tackle at the next level, but seems open to any opportunity that gets him on the field.
"That's where I like playing – I like the blind side, protecting the quarterback," Hess said. "I would hope I would play left tackle but guard, center – I just want to hit people."
He very much cares about preparing to lead his senior year an Oswego team coming off a 9-2 season that ended with an overtime loss to Bolingbrook.
"I'm intending to step up and be a leader and bring what I have learned from this recruiting process to the team," Hess said. "When you have a coach tell you that we're going to walk into Death Valley at Clemson you start to get less scared. I'm going to bring that mentality, to not be scared."