Jay Prosch played offensive line and later linebacker at UMS-Wright High School in Mobile, Alabama. Few schools besides Illinois recruited him as a fullback, and their loss is the Illini's gain. A starter all season, Prosch played what offensive coordinator Paul Petrino called the best game he's ever seen a fullback play against Northwestern.
He is understandably pleased with the positive publicity.
"I'm happy about it. My hard work is paying off, showing up in the games."
The Illini offense generated 519 rushing yards against the Wildcats, much of it behind devastating blocks from Prosch. Was there something different about the NW game that allowed him to shine?
"I don't think so. It was a process of building up, and it finally just broke out in a big game. Everything came together."
Petrino said the Northwestern linebackers were beaten men after a few Prosch hits. Was there a time in the game when he knew he had the upper hand?
"I tried not to think about that. I just kept going every play. I wasn't thinking about what they were doing, just what I was doing. I felt good knowing I was getting the job done."
His play at Wrigley Field was a culmination of improvement he's made from the beginning of the season. Experience is a great teacher.
"Definitely, yes sir. Each game I get sharper on something, get something more down so it all just keeps coming together."
The offense in general has followed the same pathway. With each passing game, more is possible.
"The offense is definitely coming together. All year we've been working on small details, learning what we need to do to get the play done."
Prosch is yet to carry the ball, and his only pass reception netted one yard. He hopes to become more involved in the future.
"Next year hopefully. We'll see. Just being a freshman this year, I didn't have much ball experience coming out from my high school. I think next year I'll start working on those kinds of plays."
Was his low high school rating a motivator to prove people wrong about him?
"Not really. I don't pay attention to that stuff. Either way, I was gonna come and do the best I could."
Prosch has noticed aspects of fullback play he has improved upon since the beginning of the season.
"My reads and connecting on my blocks. At the beginning, it was harder for me to read the line and get going full speed. Lock up on them, stay locked up on them and move my hips to stay with them. But through the season that started coming naturally."
He still has things he wants to improve, one in particular.
"Probably my speed. I want to work on more speed."
The 6'-0", 250 pounder has pretty good speed as it is. And he is already one of the team's strongest players. With his recent success, his maturity has allowed him to be a spokesman for the team when required. He is looking forward to the last regular season game at Fresno State.
"If we go out there and beat Fresno State like we should, it just shows how anybody can beat anybody on any given Saturday."
With Prosch lead blocking ahead of them, Mikel Leshoure, Jason Ford and the rest of the Illini rushers should find openings in the Fresno State line Friday night. The next three years look promising as well.