Damian Ilalio’s signing ceremony fit his style.
The celebration was low key, as a limited number of coaches, family and friends scattered themselves throughout the Manhattan High West Campus’ Little Theater Thursday morning. After a brief speech from Manhattan athletics director Mike Marsh, Ilalio — who wore a purple, tight-fitting Kansas State shirt and hat — put pen to the paper, signing to play for his hometown university.
There was no drama. No extra hats or last-minute flips. In all, the ceremony took less than 10 minutes.
That’s exactly how Ilalio played during his football career at Manhattan High. No frills or overly flashy celebrations. Just efficient production from his defensive end position.
By writing his signature on his letter of intent, Ilalio became the 15th signee for Kansas State’s 2021 football signing class. The class ranks 51st in the country — and sixth among Big 12 schools — according to 247Sports.
Ilalio, who is listed as a three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite, is coming off a senior season in which he recorded 44.5 tackles (21.5 for loss) and 6.5 sacks. Those efforts earned him numerous all-state honors and awards.
Even while his performances garnered recognition, Ilalio remained steadfast in his commitment to Kansas State. He committed to the Wildcats in July.
“I feel really secure,” Ilalio said. “I’ve had the decision and verbally committing is verbal. It feels really nice, and I’m appreciative of the moment I have right now. I feel secure about my decision, and I’m ready to get started.”
Ilalio said K-State’s coaching staff hasn’t given any indication that his path to playing time will be delayed by a redshirt or any other hold up. The Wildcats have instructed him to keep his weight steady — he’s around 270 pounds right now — so he is prepared to play either as a defensive end or defensive tackle in Kansas State’s scheme.
“There’s no roles they (Kansas State’s coaches) want to set,” Ilalio said. “It’s not, ‘Your role as a freshman is to stay behind the scenes and relax until it’s your time.’ You make that time for yourself. You’re the one who goes out and makes a name for yourself. I’m set on doing that.
“When I go there, I’m looking to make a name for myself, and make it known that I’m there for a reason,” he added. “I’m not going to play behind the scenes. I’m going to play the role I’m meant to make. If I go out there and outperform other people, then I outperform other people. If I still need some work, then I’ll get to working.”
Ilalio is one of three defensive linemen in the Wildcats’ 2021 class; the others are Georgia defensive end Ozzie Hoffler and Colorado defensive tackle Brayden Wood.
Now, Ilalio is looking forward to making the drive up Sunset Ave. and College Ave. for the next step in his football career.
“Everybody’s saying, Get ready for the season, get ready for next year,’” Ilalio said. “We’re coming to take it all. I love the mindset of our group. Our group is a go-get-it group. We have a lot of motivation. I’m really excited for next year.”