Greg Engel was a member of the Illinois football team from 1989 to 1993. He played the last four years and was named a team captain in 1993.
"I started late, but I got my four years letter. It was good."
The Bloomington native sounded overly humble and self-effacing in his comment, but he says he learned his lessons well.
"That's kind of the lineman's mantra."
Engel brought his son to campus for a summer camp recently.
"My son's in high school now, so he's in the 7-on-7 side of things."
He has a solid career and gives back by helping coach young football players.
"I work sales for a drug company up in Peoria. I've been coaching 8th graders for about five years, so I stay around it. This would be an addiction if I got into it."
With the impressive Illini football weight room as backdrop, Engel compared current facilities with those available on campus when he attended.
"When I look at the weight room, it's gigantic. They've done a lot with it. I'm not jealous about it. In my time, you had to give your socks back because of all the regulations. We had only one helmet. It's a lot different now. It's a big business too, you know.
"It's nice. It's a lot different than when I was here. Tons of improvements. I think it'll be exciting to watch it this year."
Complications prevent him from returning to campus as often as he'd like.
"I try to make it back here every now and then. I wish they played more at night. Eleven in the morning is hard for me to get to since I coach kids on Saturdays in the fall. But one day I probably will come more regularly. I come to a couple games a year, but I'd like to make every one."
He shares a sentiment common with most die-hard Illini fans.
"It would be nice to see this place full again."
Engel has many memories of his time on campus, but a couple stick out the most.
"I think for me, the best part of it was, I think athletes do hold an advantage. You live your life on such a schedule and with such discipline. I wasn't a straight 'A' student in high school. I would have never gotten into the UI if I didn't play football. So I'm very thankful for that.
"I think once you get in the game, it's like you elevate your academics as well as football. So my best memory is, I came here and got a lot of hard work done in the classroom. I think it prepared me for the career I have now. It's a new level, completely different.
"Plus, we were the last team to play four bowl games in a row. We didn't win them all."
Engel hopes to follow the Illini to bowl games in the future, although he might not attend all of them.
"Someday I'd like to travel to some of the games they play in. There's so many bowls, I'd have to pick and choose what ones I'd want to go to. I don't want to go to Shreveport."