Mikel Leshoure looked to the sidelines at the Irwin indoor practice facility and saw himself in the faces of his younger Illini teammates.
"Oh yeah, just like I was a few years ago. It was a little inspiration for those guys, let them know that hard work pays off. I was in their shoes, and for me to be here doing this encourages them to go out and do something special to get here."
"Here" was the Illinois Pro Timing Day. Nearly every professional football team was represented as scouts came to observe Leshoure and his teammates demonstrate their skills. Leshoure could have done the 40 yard dash, vertical leap and broad jump, cone drills and weight lifting but chose to concentrate on position drills.
"I felt after meeting with my agent, with him doing his homework, that it was best for me just to do position drills after my performance at the combine. I'm relieved that it's over. We put in all that work and came out here and showed our stuff to all the scouts. Now I've just got to wait for the individual workouts and then the draft."
Does that mean his Combine performance was the best he can do?
"Things could have went a little bit better, the 40 time could have been a little bit better. But overall I was happy with what happened. It wasn't an issue for me to have to come here and do other things. I was pretty happy and excited with my performance."
It helped to work out in familiar surroundings.
"It felt a lot different than the Combine. At the Combine, you had to train and go in there and do everything. I was ready, but coming out here and not having to stress about those things (was good). Position drills are something most guys are comfortable with. So it felt really good."
Leshoure flashed excellent receiver skills, including a great one-hand grab of an errant pass. He was glad to show off his good hands.
"We weren't working with professional quarterbacks. We were expecting some bad balls. You've just got to work with it, just like in a game. You've got to adjust and make a play.
"Being a receiver is one of my favorite positions. I'd love to be a receiver out of the backfield a little bit more, or lined up in the slot. But Coach P. (Paul Petrino) called a great offense. We executed and enjoyed what we did."
Media who cover professional teams were curious to learn more about Leshoure as a running back. For instance, they wanted to know if a pro team with a star running back would consider him.
"I think in the NFL nowadays you need a tandem. One power back taking 20-30 carries a game, that adds up over the years. Nowadays, people are usually going with two backs. So I wouldn't be surprised if a team with a star back scoops me up."
He was also asked if he was a power back or speed back.
"I think I'm versatile. I'm a little bit of both. I'm not blazing fast, and I'm not just all about power. At the same time, I think I can make people miss in the hole too."
Pass protections are much more complex in the pros than college, but Leshoure plans to study hard.
"I'm not really worried about that. I know when I get into a pro playbook and get some reps, that'll come quick to me. I know it's gonna be totally different with a bigger playbook, but I think after studying and taking reps things will fall into place for me."
While some players in his position feel like the draft takes forever to arrive, Leshoure has the opposite perspective.
"No, it's coming up. With our schedules and all the things we do, the time has gone by fast. The draft will be here in no time."
Leshoure was asked if the present labor strife and uncertain future affects his outlook.
"Not at all. It's something I don't really know too much about. Things like that you can't control, so you can't worry about those. I just worry about the things I can control, and that's staying in shape and doing what I have to do off the field to be the highest draft pick I can be.
"I've talked to Rashard (Mendenhall), Vontae (Davis) and Regus (Arrelious Benn). They're kind of like the same thing, it's out of their hands. And they don't know too much of what's going on. They're doing the same thing I'm doing, working out."
Does the present lockout make you regret your decision to leave a year early for the pros?
"No sir. I felt like this was my time to go. I knew what it was going into the process, and I still am happy with my decision."
Leshoure is not permitted to talk about specific teams, but he does plan to visit several pro venues.
"I've got some visits set up with some teams. I won't talk about which teams they are, but I have some individual workouts."
He has three locations where he trains, and he hasn't finalized where he will be when.
"I'll be going back and forth between Chicago and Champaign. I may also go back to McKinley, Texas, to work out with MJP. So I haven't really decided yet."
Talent evaluators say Leshoure could be drafted anywhere from the third to first round. He likely is anxious to find out who wants him, but he's trying to stay patient and balanced.
"You can't get your hopes up too high. Whatever happens, happens. Accept it and move forward."