IOWA CITY, Ia. — Dillon Doyle's earliest and favorite memories are all as a little kid at Kinnick Stadium — sitting in the bleachers with his older brothers, Donovan and Declan, and watching the swarm of Hawkeyes storm out of the tunnel every Saturday.
That'll be him soon.
Doyle, a junior outside linebacker at Iowa City West, committed to play football at Iowa on Monday night. As cliché as it might sound, this really is a dream come true for a kid who's literally grown up with the team. Recognize the last name? Dillon's the son of Chris Doyle, Iowa's strength and conditioning coach.
"I’ve been around the program to know what we’re about, obviously," Dillon said. "I’ve loved being around the program. But I’m excited to be a part of it for real now."
A 6-foot-3, 215-pound athlete with room to grow, Doyle held offers from Northern Illinois, Central Florida and South Dakota. He's also a classroom gem — with a 4.0 GPA and 32 ACT score — so Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn and Brown were all interested, too. His brother Donovan is a freshman in Harvard's wrestling program.
"It was really down to Harvard and Iowa for me, because Iowa is the best football, in my opinion, and Harvard is the best education," Doyle said. "I think Iowa is a mix of both of those, in reality."
Doyle was a focal point of West's state-runner up defense this season. He racked up 54 tackles and an interception, which he returned 21 yards. He also caught 12 passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns.
At first glance, he looks like a tight end or a wide receiver — long, strong legs, a yawning wingspan, quick feet, great leaping ability (he also does high jump for West).
But then he tackles somebody.
"I think (he has) a lot of things you would expect to see on tape from a kid who was the son of a strength coach, specifically," said Allen Trieu, Scout.com's Midwest football recruiting manager. "The kid is physical, definitely runs hard to the football, makes it known when he gets there — he’s a strong tackler."
247Sports.com gives Doyle three stars and ranks him the state's fourth-best outside linebacker in the Class of 2018. Trieu said he looks a lot like current Hawkeye linebacker Ben Niemann did coming out of high school.
"He changed directions on film really well. He plays really well in space," Trieu said of Doyle. "You watch him on offense and you'd say those skills would definitely translate to him covering and running with receivers and tight ends and backs on defense. So I think he’ll easily be able to play that outside linebacker spot.
"Watching his film, also, it’s not completely out of the question that he might be a defensive end some day. I think he could get big enough and be skilled enough."
The Hawkeyes offered Doyle at their junior day March 5. Doyle said he's happy to have a decision made before his senior season, when West will be gunning to return to the state title game and win it this time.
And along the way, don't be surprised to see him featured a bit more as a receiver than he was this year — in addition to leading what should be another stout defense.
"As far as his offensive abilities, he’s underrated," West head coach Garrett Hartwig said. " ... He’s a mismatch. He’s physical when he blocks, he’s a big target, he can run like a receiver, catch like a receiver and he’s a very, very capable blocker."
Doyle said Iowa has recruited him as an outside linebacker.
Doyle is Iowa's third commit in the Class of 2018. Three-star offensive guard Jeff Jenkins of Crystal Lake, Ill., committed in late January, and three-star linebacker Mike Bruner of Thiensville, Wisc., committed in October.
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.