CHAMPAIGN — It had been so long since Martez Wilson had been in Memorial Stadium he couldn't remember the specifics.
He knew it was his last home game in the 2010 season, but he couldn't recall the opponent.
Since that time, the Chicago native has played with the NFL's Saints, Raiders and Cowboys, one of Illinois' professional success stories.
Given his stature, Wilson was called back for the Orange and Blue spring game, asked by former teammate Juice Williams to join him as an honorary coach.
"It feels so long," Wilson said during the game. "They changed so much around me, like the press box, the scoreboard, everything looks news and fresh. I like it."
Having guys like Wilson hang around surely helps coach Tim Beckman. Beckman constantly texts Wilson and the rest of the Illini pros, even if Wilson was gone years before Beckman arrived. Beckman sends good luck messages every Sunday.
"Just for him to do that a lot let's us know we still have a family here," Wilson said. "Being a former Illini, alumni period, it just feels great to still feel loved when you come back, like you never left."
Wilson says he loved playing in spring games while at Illinois. He wants to see Memorial Stadium packed full of fans, something he says will happen if the team can improve it's win total year by year.
"First it starts with coaching, get some good coaching, get some good players and just go from there," he said. "It starts with the team itself. Leaders, gotta have true leaders on the team to bring everyone up to the same level."
At this point, with his friend Juice on staff and his support thrown firmly behind Beckman, Wilson is glad to do his part.
"I've seen some guys with nice talent out here, so with me being in the league going on four years I feel like I've got a lot to offer as far as my ability and what I've learned as far as pass rushing from the linebacker perspective," Wilson said. "I just want to be a big brother to them and give them as much advice as I could."