Illinois starting offensive guard Randall Hunt has finally completed his last Camp Rantoul. It has been a long time coming for the New Jersey native who enrolled a semester early to get a head start on his college career.
"It feels great. It's my last Camp Rantoul. I'm just trying to go out with a bang. Knowing I did everything I could do to help this team.
"Looking back it's gone pretty fast. Seeing people come and go. I've been here since the spring of '06, so I've been here as long as Coach (Ron) Zook."
"We've got a rotation going. We've got two different one groups, and we just rotate through practice."
There have been naysayers who assumed Hunt didn't have what it takes to be a quality starter. He won't let negative perceptions adversely affect his game.
"I just try to do my best every play. Everybody makes mistakes, it's how you rebound from it. That's what I'm trying to do right now. Be the best player I can be."
It has been a hot summer, especially once fall camp began. Focusing thorughout practice is difficult. But as a mature upperclassman, Hunt is prepared to battle through any complications.
"You will face adversity in a game. There may be a game hotter than this. We've just got to keep playing."
Offensive linemen are now required to change sides once in awhile. He needed time to perfect it, but Hunt says that is behind him now.
"You had to get used to it at first, but now I've been doing it so long. We had player practices all summer, so I'm used to it now. It's normal for me."
The 6'-6", 315 pounder is looking forward to facing opponents this fall with the new offense brought in by Paul Petrino.
"It's great. We've got a lot more plays with guards pulling and stuff like that. Just getting out and making plays happen, and that's what we've got to do. We have to establish a physicalness in the game. I feel we can do that with this offense.
"You watch practice and see some of the stuff that happens, you get confident it's gonna happen in a game. We keep having good things happen in practice."
The last two years have been difficult for Illinois. But Hunt says the bad memories are in the past thanks to a little help from his family and friends.
"You've just got to have good people around you to keep you going. Family members just to keep encouraging you to keep going. You also have to be able to encourage yourself. I feel I've done a pretty good job of that. Just keep going, keep pushing. That's all you can do."
Hunt believes all the coaching and scheme changes this year give everyone a new lease on life.
"It's a new beginning. We pretty much have a whole new staff. We're excited about that and look forward to the season. I'm more excited about this season than any other one, just to see if all the hard work's gonna pay off. I know it's gonna pay off."