Guest Column: Football coach Ron Zook

By Ron Zook

Editor’s note: The Daily Illini invited football coach Ron Zook to share his thoughts on his first season at Illinois. This guest column is intended to let fans read the coach’s take on the season and future of Illini football.

Dec. 7 will mark one year since I arrived on the University of Illinois campus. On one hand it feels as if this year has flown by, but on the other hand I am amazed how at home I feel here in such a short time. I have always said people make a place and there is no doubt that myself, our coaching staff and our families have been welcomed with open arms to this University and community.

I appreciate the Daily Illini giving me this opportunity to speak directly to the student body. As soon as the season wrapped up about two weeks ago, I immediately began, as I usually do, evaluating the entire year – everything from myself, our coaches, the players, the schemes, recruiting and even our fans. And the one thing I keep coming back to in my mind is the tremendous support of our fans.

My wife, Denise, who has been able to see more of the atmosphere than I have this year, continues to remark on how positive everyone is toward this program. It is so refreshing to see the passion you as students and our alumni have for Illini sports.

First and foremost, I want to thank the more than 5,000 students who purchased season tickets and came out to Memorial Stadium to support us each Saturday. On many occasions, I looked up into the stands during our home games and was amazed at the energy and size of our crowds. You may not realize how you affect us, the coaches and players, with your enthusiasm. I especially want to thank the Block I for your dedication this season. Just the other day I was noticing how prominent Block I footage is in our recruiting and highlight videos. I cannot stress how important your presence is not only for the current team, but in selling future Illini.

I regret that we haven’t given our fans more to cheer about this season, but I can promise you that those days will be few and far between in the upcoming years. I have been able to meet many students this year, but for those of you who haven’t been around me, let me say that I am an extremely competitive man. When challenges are placed in front of me, that’s when my juices get going. “Go, man, go” is my motto and now is not the time to slow down, it is time to go as fast as we can. I have never been more optimistic about where this program is going, and I feel better than ever about my decision to be here at Illinois.

Right now we are in the midst of the recruiting season, and in the next couple of months we are going to be bringing elite student-athletes to this campus.

During this time, we will sell to these athletes that Illinois is one of the greatest academic institutions in the country and that students here have a tremendous amount of passion for your University. We are going head-to-head with the big boys, and we feel confident that once these recruits hit our campus, they will see the same things I have seen that made me fall in love with Illinois.

This is a pivotal time for Illinois football. We are in a proverbial construction zone right now. We are building a program, not just a team and when we are finished it will be something we can all be proud of. The foundation is being laid, we are putting up the framework and it’s going to be pretty.

Let me just say to everyone that now is the time to jump on this bandwagon … and hang on tight ’cause this is going to be a heckuva ride!