Trulon Henry earned his spurs in 2010, starting at safety the whole season after transferring from junior college. Older than the other players, he has maturity and leadership skills rare in a college player. He is also a team player who will help wherever needed.
However, his recent move to SAM requires an exercise in semantics. The acronym SAM means strongside linebacker, but in defensive coordinator Vic Koenning's scheme he must also be a capable nickel back. Henry balks at the idea of calling his new role a linebacker.
"That was a nickel package. They didn't say I was necessarily a linebacker yet. I just tried that dropdown package we used against Baylor. In the bowl game, we had Tavon Wilson down there. They're gonna try me down there to get all the playmakers on the field at one time."
Koenning said in the spring Henry would be a natural at the position, if only there was enough depth at safety to move him.
"Yeah, but we still have no depth at safety. We can't take away from one spot to help another. Until we get it right back there, I don't know what Coach has planned.
"At safety, we just need some young guys to step up and become leaders and become strong mentally. Until we get that, we can't say we have depth back there."
Many Illinois defensive backs are learning multiple positions to add depth and confuse opponents. Henry is confident Koenning will find the best solution.
"Yeah, we have a lot more options back there with the different packages we're gonna put in. Coach Koenning is a surgeon back there. He'll put all that stuff together."
Henry is highly motivated for his final season.
"I feel a sense of urgency to get things right and get better as a team. I feel like we need to come together as a team and be the best team we are capable of being."
What about personal goals for the Washington, D.C. native?
"I'm over the personal goals. I'm living my dream right now. So I have no more personal goals, only team goals."
A deep thinker, Henry sees nuances where see only simplistic detail. He realizes prognosticators discount the UI defense after losing its two best players Corey Liuget and Martez Wilson, but he disagrees.
"That's natural. Everybody loses a player until others step up. That's what they get scholarships for, to come in here and step up and play ball.
"To us, we're not missing nothing. Since my brother (Arrelious Benn) was here, they always discount us. I can't talk about them; I'll let them watch on Saturdays."
Henry trusts his feelings regarding the defense.
"I feel the same way about the defense as I felt last year. Even better this year because now we have a lot of players in their second year in the scheme. They know their stuff, so you expect more out of them.
"We've made a lot of improvement. Last year, it was new to us. It's not new to us anymore."
He's not worried about his ultimate position on the team. Henry is a warrior who will do whatever is needed to make the team better.
"I don't know what Coach has planned. We've got all Rantoul to figure it out."