UI Lineman Jack Cornell Living The Dream

There are a large number of college seniors hoping for a shot at professional football every season, but only a select few are fortunate enough to make it. As long as there is a dream, there is a chance. Illini lineman Jack Cornell had an excellent showing in the recent Pro Timing Day and now hopes to hear from one or more NFL teams.

Jack Cornell knew going into the Illinois Pro Timing Day that his chances of being drafted into the NFL were slim. But he still believes he has pro football in his future.

"I'm not a first round guy, I'm not a big name kind of guy. I'm the late round, free agent sort of thing. But I'm okay with that. Throughout this whole process, I said all I want is a shot. I see an opportunity to prove myself and make the most of it."

Cornell did just that. The 6'-5", 307 pounder ran the 40 yard dash in an impressive 5.08, so his straight-ahead speed is excellent for his position. He also did 33 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, the top performance on the day. He felt could have improved the bench press.

"I felt like I could have done a lot more than that, but I'm happy with that number. It's better than a lot of guys did at the combine. Overall, I think I could've done some little things better. But I'm pleased with it."

He awaits an evaluation from the various scouts present on Pro Timing Day. But one thing is certain. He proved he can be trusted to make the effort.

"Showing them that you're a hard worker, that you've taken the last 10 weeks seriously and come out here with a professional mindset is important."

Whether he gets his chance at the pros, he is doing exactly what he wants at this point.

"I'm interested in the dream. At this point in my life, this is exactly what I wanted to be doing. Everything sort of panned out that way. It's been a lot of hard work, a lot of blue collar days. But overall, it's really been good, a positive experience."

Cornell prepared diligently for this day.

"I enjoyed my time in Provo, Utah. I was working out at a small facility at BYU with a bunch of guys just like me. A lot of no-name guys who are just looking for a shot.

"It's been really good. The trainer out there really knows his stuff. And I've been working with a world-class nutritionist, doing everything right and trying to be a professional athlete."

He planned to take a week or two off before resuming his training.

"I'll go back home to Quincy for a little bit and relax. I haven't had any time off since the bowl game, so I want some time to kick back and relax. Then I will go back out to Provo and keep working until it's time to hear them call my name at the draft."

Cornell is realistic about his chances, but hope springs eternal.

"I've heard from a couple teams, but not much. Some teams have shown interest, but it really doesn't matter. All you have to do is impress one team. I wanted to take the mindset to come here and try to impress every team. Show them that I've got what it takes to be a professional football player."

Regardless of his immediate future, Cornell is leaving his alma mater with positive memories. The big win in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl helped make up for a strange and frustrating 2011 season.

"No doubt about it. The second half of the season, how it ended up. Going out to San Francisco and getting a huge win, that was really for all of us players, for Coach (Ron) Zook, for everybody. We ended up leaving on a good note.

"I've said this the whole time, but I wanted to go out a winner. And I did. I couldn't be happier with my teammates. It all goes up from here."


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