Brandon Mayes returned to Northern Illinois to sprint 40 yards this weekend.
He had not covered 40 feet after being offered a football scholarship when he realized he wanted to be a Huskie.
An incoming Aurora Christian senior, Mayes verbally committed as a defensive back to Huskies coach Dave Doeren on Friday night, moments after re-taking his 40-yard dash from an earlier individual workout. Mayes still had planned to visit a handful of schools in the next 10 days, but he quickly did an about-face upon descending only a few stairs outside Doeren's office.
"I walked back in there and the whole coaching staff was there and it was a great moment," Mayes said. "Probably not even five minutes later, I committed and became a Huskie."
Mayes worked out at Huskie Stadium on June 8, completing several combine-style drills for coaches.
Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe lobbied for Mayes to NIU brass earlier this spring, but Doeren told Beebe the next step was to see how Mayes' film speed translated live.
Weary from a week of offseason workouts with the Eagles, Mayes completed a 4.85-second 40-yard dash last week. He volunteered to re-run the 40 and turned in a 4.61 on Friday. Beebe was happy to ease Mayes' workload in the interim.
"That first week conditioning-wise is pretty hard. It's almost like a bunch of track workouts," Beebe said. "By the time the end of the week came, it was dead legs. I told coach [Doeren] that I'll give Brandon a week without much to do and he'll be back and do something with it. And sure enough, he did."
Mayes was the Eagles' second-leading tackler as a junior with 113, including a team-best 12 in the team's Class 3A state championship win against Mt. Carmel. He also collected eight interceptions and was the team's second-leading rusher with 743 yards.
Recruited as a defensive back, the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Mayes still plans to play both ways during his final high school season. Still, his workout time with Huskies cornerbacks coach Richard McNutt – a former corner at Ohio State – left Mayes especially enthused about his defensive duties and sharing what he learned with Eagles teammates.
"You'd never realize how much time you lose from taking one false step," Mayes said. "To be the best, you have to work on your technique, and coach McNutt really helped me hone in on my skills and footwork."
Mayes also was considering several other schools, including Western Illinois, Drake, Western Michigan, Southeast Missouri State, North Dakota and South Dakota State.
Staying close to home and his two brothers – both in the early stages of their own football careers – was important to Mayes, an Aurora resident. Mayes said he plans to be roommates with classmate Chad Beebe, an Aurora Christian wide receiver (and Don's son) who committed to NIU on June 9.