Brent channels focus to the field after suspension for DUI


Illinois’ Josh Brent (92) moves after the snap during a play on the Ohio State one-yard line, Saturday Nov.15 at Memorial Stadium. Brent will play this Saturday against Missouri after serving time in jail this off-season for a DUI arrest.

By Anthony Zilis

Josh Brent’s future was up in the air for some time.

After receiving a DUI in February, the junior defensive tackle was suspended indefinitely from the team for spring practice, then served jail time during the summer. He was reinstated for training camp but still wasn’t sure if he would be suspended for any games.

But at Tuesday’s press conference, Illini head football coach Ron Zook ended all doubt, saying Brent is “scheduled to play on Saturday” in the team’s opener against Missouri.

Although the decision may be controversial in the public eye, Zook stands by his decision.

“I have a conversation with Josh daily … I know him as a person,” Zook said. “I think that was important to me, and that’s why we waited this long. (Athletic director Ron Guenther) and I had a lot of conversations. This is our program and obviously it’s important, and we wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing.”

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Brent said he wasn’t notified until it was announced to the media that he would be playing, but he’s just happy he’ll be on the field Saturday.

“I’m just grateful coach Ron Guenther, our athletic director, and Coach Zook decided to make the choice that they did, and I’m glad my teammates supported them in the decisions that they made,” he said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity.”

Zook cited Brent’s ability to come out of the ordeal as a better person as one reason for his decision.

Still, Brent doesn’t quite understand the reason his coach decided to let him play.

“Truthfully, I’m not really sure,” he said. “I just tried to be on my best behavior, do all the right things. Not necessarily just to get this opportunity, but to straighten out my life and sort of get some things in order.”

“I know it was a tough decision for coach and the University administrative staff, so I was patient as can be, willing to accept any decision they were willing to make.”

Brent’s play is crucial to a defensive line that is shaping up to be one of the team’s strengths. Fellow defensive tackle Corey Liuget said having Brent back in the lineup helps him improve every day.

“He feeds off me, and I feed off him during practice,” said the sophomore, who will line up next to Brent on Saturday. “(Last week) during practice, he got mad, so I said, ‘Forget it, I’ve got to get mad.’ So we both just got mad and tore the offensive line up.”

Brent knows his focus is crucial to the defensive line’s success, as he realizes he’ll have to deal with unruly fans.

“Any stadium you go to, there’s going to be some bad fans that have some nasty things to say about you, no matter how good of a person you are,” Brent said. “You expect it because it comes along with the game.”

“I really don’t pay too much attention to it, I just pay attention to the game.”