OAK LAWN, Ill. - Ricky Smalling’s personality is anything but small.
His teammates at Brother Rice say he’s friends with practically everyone in the school, including his quarterback.
"Oh, we always hang out," smiled Dino Borrelli. "We're best friends. I don't know if he said that, but yeah we hang out."
"Ricky's always got to be good friends with the quarterback because he wants the rock," noted head coach Brian Badke.
Through his first six games of the season, Smalling racked up 32 receptions, nine touchdowns and 680 receiving yards, 410 of which came after the catch, all with defenses watching his every move.
"We'll watch film all week and we'll just go over the defense that they did against other teams and when they come out it's a whole other defense," explained Smalling. "I just have to adjust to that. Make something out of nothing."
Smalling broke onto the scene last year after a 178-yard, three touchdown performance against the third-ranked Mt. Carmel Caravan in a 31-14 upset.
It gained the attention of a lot of big name schools like Wisconsin, Purdue and Virginia, but in the end Smalling chose to play at Illinois.
"Lovie's really cool. He's a really down to earth person," Smalling remarked. "I was very comfortable around them. I felt like I could be myself at all times. They knew a lot about the game and can help me get to the next level."
Playing college football isn’t the endgame for Smalling.
He wants to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Laquon Treadwell, and make it to the NFL.
"Yeah, that's really my goal. That's my ultimate goal right there."
"There's no doubt," Badke agreed. "Obviously, a lot of things have to go your way. He's still got a lot of work to do. Obviously, perform at the college level and the Big Ten. Going to the University of Illinois is going to be the first step. Obviously, continue that with a tremendous work ethic, not only on the field but more importantly in the classroom. He's really done a much better job with that and I'm extremely proud of him with that as well."