Trevon Sidney uses positive attitude to prepare for season


Photo Courtesy of Michael Glasgow / Fighting Illini Athletics

Redshirt senior Trevon Sidney runs the ball during competition.

By Carson Gourdie, Assistant Sports Editor

He hadn’t played a significant down of football since October 2019. His career had been rocked by recurring injuries and transferring. He was ready to play, but it appeared the Big Ten presidents were going to deny him that opportunity this season. Senior wide receiver Trevon Sidney didn’t let it discourage him.

“I try to think of everything as positive,” Sidney said. “I definitely wanted to play. I was saying, ‘Maybe I’m not ready. Maybe my hamstring and leg aren’t going to be ready. Maybe it was a good thing.’ But I kind of had a feeling it was all going to work out.”

While the California native remained upbeat, Big Ten presidents reversed their decision and now the always-positive Sidney gears up for his senior season, starting with Wisconsin in two weeks. 

Sidney, who transferred to Illinois last season after graduating from the University of Southern California, has seen little playing time in Champaign. After playing in the first five games last season — finishing with 123 yards and one touchdown — Sidney suffered a leg injury against Minnesota and underwent season-ending surgery. 

Despite having COVID-19 interfering with his recovery, Sidney stayed focused and lived at the facilities.

“I’ve given too much (to the game) to let anything stop me,” Sidney said. “COVID-19 kind of set me back a little bit. Got sent back home for like four months. When I came back here, I’ve been grinding every day. I’ve been in the training room all day, two, three sessions.”

Hard work has guided Sidney to where he is now. But, throughout his life, one constant presence pushed him, whether he liked it or not at the time — his father, Carlos.

“He would film every (football, baseball and basketball) game,” Sidney said. “We would come home after the game and watch the film. He would tell me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. I hated it, but it kind of worked out for me at the same time.” 

Sidney was born in Pasadena, California, the home of the Rose Bowl. Growing up in California during the 2000s, the USC Trojans dominated college football with stars like Troy Polamalu, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush captivating audiences every Saturday, including Sidney. 

Sidney, who used to play running back, idolized Reggie Bush, so he and his father used to practice the Heisman Trophy winner’s moves.

“I wanted to go to USC,” Sidney said. “I would watch USC games and watch Reggie Bush. I would see him do a move and right after that game, we would go to the park and work on it until I got it done.

“He’s been my coach, my mentor, my father. He’s been everything. He means the world to me.”

While the country was under lockdown, Carlos suffered a stroke and was hospitalized for months. Sidney, while still rehabbing and training for this season, was at home taking care of his father. Luckily, Carlos is doing better now and continues to provide motivation to the wide receiver. Sidney even found COVID-19 to have a positive. 

“When I’m done and don’t want to do anything, I think of him,” Sidney said. “He’s been a fighter his whole life. In the instances where I got hurt, I’ve seen him fight through so much, so it’s an inspiration for me.”

“If there wasn’t COVID, I wouldn’t have been home to take care of him, so I look at everything as a blessing.”

Sidney’s consistently positive attitude has shaped not only his college career, but also his life. Sidney wanted to play at USC his entire childhood, and he made it happen. He said he would graduate in three years, and he did. But during his struggles — injuries and lack of playing time at USC — Sidney has taken initiative and made something out of it. 

While Sidney prepares to play his first full season since 2018, he’ll join coach Lovie Smith’s most talented offense yet. Although Illinois has talented targets for Brandon Peters, Sidney will have the chance to have an immediate impact as long as he stays healthy.  

“I feel like I have really good energy,” Sidney said. “When I get my opportunity, I will make the best of mine. I just love cheering everyone on. I’ve battled through a lot of stuff, so I’m kind of that positive reinforcement.”

Sidney is two weeks away from getting to play his first game in over a year. For an athlete who’s been through the wringer, the California native couldn’t be happier putting on the pads against their division rival. 

“It’s going to be crazy,” Sidney said. “The game is actually on my birthday. We beat them last year. They’re going to want revenge. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”



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