Illini football heads to Rantoul for camp

By Anthony Zilis

The Illini football team heads off to Rantoul today for the beginning of its two-week camp.

Although these next two weeks will be a crucial time for the Illini to improve and gel as a team, some players find the idea of staying together for two weeks away from home unsavory.

“Two weeks locked into a hotel, it’s not fun,” quarterback Juice Williams said. “But it’s for a great cause, and I’m ready to step up and do that.”

These two weeks will not only be a chance for the Illini to improve on the field, but it will be a chance to form a bond that they hope will help resurrect a team coming off a disappointing season.

“It’s like the ultimate camaraderie because every day you wake up, you see these guys,” defensive end Clay Nurse said. “You’ve got to get to know your teammates. You find out, you’ve got some interesting people on the team around you. You build a brotherhood when you get out there.”

One unit in search of cohesion this camp will surely be the defensive line. Josh Brent comes in after sitting out spring practices following his DUI arrest.

He’ll line up next to sophomore tackle Corey Liuget, who thinks being isolated from civilization at Rantoul might not be such a bad thing.

“You can’t talk to your parents, your girls, anybody. It’s like you’re cut off to the world for two weeks,” Liuget said. “It’s like, you get brainwashed. They brainwash you with football. They just set it into your head that you’re here for football, just these two weeks.”

This “brainwashing” will be a first-time experience for youngsters such as receiver Terry Hawthorne, running backs Bud Golden and Justin Green, and defensive end Michael Buchanan, all entering their first camps as freshmen.

A player’s first camp can be a traumatic experience but can also be crucial for a freshman learning the ropes.

“I remember the first day in camp, with pads, learning the signals, everything was going so fast,” sophomore receiver Cordale Scott said. “My mind was spinning. Just going back to your room and crying, thinking that football ain’t for you.”

Will Scott warn his young teammates of the experience?

“They’ll figure it out,” he said.

Nurse has slightly more jovial memories of his first camp.

“I remember, my freshman year, we used to go around trashing people’s rooms. Go in there, mess up their beds, hide their stuff and all like that,” he said. “Before they come and do the bed check, a couple of guys would put speakers out in the hallway. We’d start rapping, start dancing. Just whatever we could do to pass the time away, break up the monotony.”

Nurse will take a slightly different approach than Scott in getting to know the freshmen.

“I know a bunch of the older guys, so it’s time to bring the freshmen into the fold,” he said. “Get to know them, take them underneath your wing and guide them.”