Lessons Learned

No question J.J. Billingsley is one of Colorado's most talented football players. But following a knee injury that nagged him, then ended his season early last fall, Billingsley found himself suspended from the team in the spring for poor academic performance. Inside, an interview where the junior reveals what being on the sidelines has taught him.

J.J. Billingsley spent the spring working, trying to make ends meet, while thinking about how he'd rather be playing football. It was a rude awakening.

Billingsley did what he had to do to earn reinstatement to the team. Thursday, he was wearing his No. 5 jersey and participating in drills, the knee brace on his leg a reminder of last fall's injury. Billingsley is scheduled to take a final exam in his Social Problems class this morning at 9:15 a.m. He expects to earn a good enough grade to make his return official once the grade is posted.

Head coach Gary Barnett said it was good to see Billingsley back on the field Thursday. But the coach stated the obvious when he said, "he's rusty because he was out all spring, so he's going to have to get back in the flow of it."

Billingsley knows that. And he also knows that he's the one responsible for being in the position he's been in the past six months, when he was unsure if his playing days were over or not. Billingsley isn't blaming anyone else for his problems.

The following is an interview with the talented and affable Buffalo:

Q: How did it feel to be out there again?
It felt good. It felt really good. I've been waiting for it, and it finally came.

Q: What was that for like you, getting hurt and not playing much last fall, and then not being able to play in the spring?
It was tough. I felt like I was kind of alienated from the game. I was watching it as a fan on the sidelines. I didn't go to any meetings or go to many practices (last fall) because I was doing schoolwork.

As far as the spring, it was hard too. I was making some money and trying to live because I wasn't getting the scholarship checks. So I had to get money. I'd come out here sometimes and watch practice. I had to get a little football fix.

Q: Did that experience make you hungry to get done what you had to get done in the classroom this summer?
Actually, during that time I was down on myself. I thought it was over until they told me I could go to summer school. I knew that, but I didn't know how summer school was going to end up.

Q: What is your exact status now?
I'm not done with summer school yet. I've got a final tomorrow (Friday). I'll be waiting on that grade, then I'll be back. (He is allowed to practice before getting the grade).

Q: What about physically, where are you?
I feel good strength wise. My knee feels good. But in this brace it's kind of hard for me to move. I don't think I'll have to wear it during the games. I'll be alright during the games.

Q: Were you involved in summer workouts?
Yeah, I started lifting in May.

Q: Do you feel your speed is where it needs to be?
When my brace is off. I'm still not comfortable in my brace. But when it's off, I feel like I can move.

Q: Do you have expectations for yourself? Do you want to be in the starting lineup against Colorado State?
Yeah, I want to be in the starting lineup. But I've got to work. You know, I've got to prove that I can still play. I haven't played in a while. I've got to work my way up.

Q: Was this experience of not being on the team in the spring, and not knowing what you were going to do earlier in the summer, was that a learning experience?
It was a big learning experience. I think I took a step toward being a man on account of taking responsibility for myself. I got to look back on what I used to do: blame people. I thought it was everybody else's fault. But really it was my fault to be in this situation. Because I control all this.

I got a chance to see all that.

Q: That's a pretty big step. Was there one moment when that happened, or was it gradual?
I think as soon as I started lifting in May. And going through summer school in general. I got a good grade (in the first summer session), I was paying attention, talking to people differently, just handling myself differently and being a respectable young man.

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