Before he started playing high school football, before the offers started coming in, before there was debate as to whether he was better suited to play quarterback or enter college with the oft-used "athlete" tag, Lloyd Yates would spend many autumn Saturdays sitting in the Ryan Field bleachers. With his father, William, a Northwestern alum, seated next to him, Lloyd began to root for the Wildcats.
But, even as a burgeoning athlete, Lloyd's attention wasn't totally focused on the field that one day, years later, he may have the chance to play on.
"My brother [Billy] graduated a few years ago," Lloyd said. "He was on the drum line at Northwestern so we would go to all the home Northwestern games. We’d sit right next to the drum line and it’d be fun."
"We kind of have a little Northwestern in our blood," he said.
The three-star quarterback from Oak Park and River Forest High School about 20 miles southwest of Evanston, has yet to receive an offer from Northwestern, but the school has been on him from the very beginning of his recruiting process.
"They’ve been on my radar since day one," he said. "They were actually the first school I talked to when I was a starter on varsity as a sophomore."
Yates is adamant that his family isn't pushing him to go to Northwestern if the school offers him a scholarship, despite their ties to the university.
"Ultimately, my dad wants what’s best for me," he said. "Obviously, he thinks Northwestern’s a great choice. It’s a great school, close to home, great programs, great staff. So he thinks that that is a good choice. But he’s not pulling for them more so than he’s pulling for any of my other options. He’s along for the ride."
After a strong junior season, other schools in the midwest have shown interest. As of early May, Yates told InsideNU that he has offers from Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Illinois State, Akron and Colgate. Miami (Ohio) and Nevada have also been talking to Yates but have not offered him.
Like his father, though, Yates is keeping an open mind about the recruiting process.
"[Northwestern is] just the same as everybody else. I wouldn’t rank any school higher than what they are. I believe that all the schools that are in contact with me have a fair opportunity and equal chance. I’m equally excited about all the schools that offered me and about all the schools I’m in contact with, including Northwestern. It’s not like they’re below or above anybody, I’m equally excited."
At six-foot-one, Yates is a strong athlete who uses both his arms and legs to make plays. That can be a double-edged sword for high school quarterbacks who want to be signal-callers at the next level.
"I want to play quarterback," he said. "That’s more of what of I feel most comfortable at. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t play athlete and wouldn’t play whatever they want me to play because I would depending on the school."
Right now, Western Michigan and Illinois State are not recruiting Yates to play quarterback. Akron, Colgate and NIU have all offered him as a QB. As far as Northwestern goes, Yates said that, depending on what happens with other prospects, Northwestern wants him as a quarterback.
"They said that they like me as a quarterback. They want to recruit me as a quarterback. In the case that one of the quarterbacks that they offer commits there, they said they’re only taking one quarterback. Then they’ll look at me as an athlete in case that happens," he said.
Along with the opportunity to play quarterback, the coaching staff's continuity is one of the most intriguing parts about playing at Northwestern, Yates said.
"I like that they have a really good coaching staff. I know that the coaching staff is going to be there for a while. However things work out, if I happen to go to Northwestern, I know that the coaches will be there until I graduate because I know that they won’t go anywhere."
He also said that he plays in a similar offense to what Northwestern runs.
Yates has no timetable on when he'd like to make a decision, but making the right choice will be more important than making the quickest choice, when the time comes for him to decide where he wants to play college football.
"I’m not going to rush anything," he said. "If I’m not comfortable making a decision, I’m not going to just say I want to go there just because I feel like time’s running out. Hopefully that’s sooner than later."
School: Oak Park and River Forest
Offers: Akron, Western Michigan, Illinois State, Colgate, Northern Illinois
Profiles: Scout, Rivals, 247, Hudl
Notes: Father and brother both went to Northwestern. Grew up rooting for the school. Likes the appeal of Northwestern's local presence, coaching staff and academics. Being recruited as an athlete by some schools.