Champaign — After suffering a disappointing defeat at home in San Antonio, Texas last Saturday night, Illinois football coach Bret Bielema thought his group needed a pick-up.
He also had some thoughts.
So at 7am Wednesday, during Irini’s regular team meeting at the Smith Center, Bielema summoned a group of players while discussing Virginia’s game plan.
The mix included a walk-on of five people. Outside linebackers Bryce Burns and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley graduates, tight-end Tip Playman, and three linebackers, Ryan Mead, Sean Cogran, and Isaac Darkangelo.
Bielema didn’t tell anyone in the program what he was about to announce. All five players will receive the scholarship.
He made a similar move in the spring and put Tailon Leitzsey, Michael Marchese, Alec McEachern and Christian Bobak on scholarships after calling for a demonstration of the new training.
By the time the word “scholarship” came out of Bielema’s mouth in the spring, the four flocked to cheering teammates, and the Illinois football program socialized Bielema’s sly presentations and subsequent congratulatory videos. I shared it on the media.
This time, Bielema wanted to handle the life-changing news of these players in a different way.
“Not only did we want to surprise our players and teammates, but we also wanted to surprise our coaches,” Burma said. “So I didn’t even tell the coach what I was trying to do. I spun it a bit and it surprised everyone. I was on a scholarship. If I had rattled no five players, it would have been like “Oh, I’m on the coach”, “I’m off this rodeo”, but I disguised it. “
Then on Wednesday night’s radio show, Bielema told the host and the Voice of the Illini Brian Barnhart about the moment.
“We felt we needed a little more energy,” he said.
On Thursday, Bielema explained why she didn’t want to share this particular team’s moments on social media. The spring announcement video has gained about 80,000 views and a lot of engagement on Twitter, but intimate team moments are more valuable to Bielema than social media traction.
“I’m also a little old school and I think we are,” Bielema said. “It’s ours. It happened in our team’s conference room, and that moment lives forever with those players and their coaches and me. It’s in our room. It’s a privilege.
“And that was probably great, the media and everything else, the story is there,” he continued. “People understand that, but the moment we shared it as a player or coach, I didn’t want to be seen in the outside world.”
But what Bielema saw from five new scholarship players in the last nine months since he got a job at Irini last December is why he awarded them scholarships.
“You got Sean, a walk-on from the Chicago area in his final season, and did everything right from A to Z,” Bielema said. “Tip is a non-scholarship player from Dakotas, a third tight end of great value to us, and a complement to them.”
“It’s a walk-on from Ryan, New York. From recruitment to waitrooms to scholars, everything is right in college football, especially here at the University of Illinois,” said Bielema. “Bryce, just off Gibson City, played a lot last year. I use him as a punt shield. Just a great, great young man who represents our condition. And in fact Isaac, who transferred from the Division II school (Northern Michigan), came to us and did a tremendous job here. “
Burma remembers how he stepped into Iowa’s team under Haydenfly in the late 1980s and understands the implications of scholarships in the lives of young athletes.
Fry, who became a Burmese coaching mentor, has put him on a scholarship since the second season with Hawkeye. While Bielema was Bielema’s defense coordinator in Kansas in 2002 and 2003, the practice of rewarding walk-ons at scholarship spots continued.
“I was a former walk-on, but I couldn’t get a scholarship until the second year after proving that what they actually saw became reality in the field and could contribute,” he said. Told. .. “All five were very impressed from the day they came here.”
In Wisconsin, Bielema has made a name for himself on many walk-on stars, especially JJ Watt. This is a development that helped badgers win three consecutive big ten titles during their tenure.
Along with Watt, who has a 101-carrier NFL sack, aggressive tackle Rick Wagner, free safety Chris Maragos and wide receiver Jared Ablederis all entered the NFL career after walking in Wisconsin.
The frequency of football injuries and the reality of the revolving doors of the 2021 transfer portal allow coaches who use walk-ons well to squeeze out important production and playmaking from their roster.
“I call them erasers,” Bielema said. “Often they eliminate hiring mistakes. People who have never performed at the level you expected, or scholarships in certain positions due to an injury or something that you (have) The one who lost the player. That’s what I believed as a player. That’s why I walked at the University of Iowa. “
Burma also believes that each of the five Irini players he offered this week’s scholarship is more capable than helping this season.
“I had a lot of ex-players do great things,” Bielema said. “Play in the NFL. Keep running the company. Very successful people. And I think these five guys are a great example of what it is.”
Burns in 5 Ilini to Win a Scholarship | Sports
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