Bellamy Back And Hoping To Start At Safety

As well as the Fighting Illini football team played last fall, it was still missing a few players due to injury. One of those was letterman Travon Bellamy, who is healthy again and chomping at the bit to compete for a starting safety spot.

Travon was one of the young guns who gave hope during the 2006 season. As a true freshman, the graduate of Eleanor Roosevelt high school in Greenbelt, Maryland, was the starting nickel back and produced 15 tackles and two interceptions. He had 88 yards in returns on those interceptions, with one going for a 41 yard touchdown against Wisconsin.

He was penciled in to be a regular in the 2007 defensive backfield, but high school shoulder injuries had progressively worsened until surgery was required. And not just on one shoulder, but both. It was a tough but necessary decision.

"It was very difficult for me. The first one was ok, but doing it again, it was frustrating."

As painful as the surgeries were, sitting out may have been even more painful.

"It was a bittersweet feeling watching my team go out there and win. I saw their hard work pay off, but then I wasn't able to help my team win and make plays."

Bellamy wants to partcipate fully in spring practices, but Coach Zook and his staff have made the wise choice to withhold him from full contact to prevent recurrence of the injuries. He understands, but he doesn't like wearing the red shirt in practice and having to watch during live scrimmaging.

"I don't like this at all. I want to come out here and do what I really want to do. I've got to be patient and wait my time. I feel like I'm 100%, but this is just a precautionary thing. I won't start hitting until the fall."

Travon doesn't believe he will have any problems getting back into top form by fall despite being away from the game so long.

"I don't think it's going to be that hard, as long as I come out here and run around I am a little rusty as far as my technique is concerned. I just need to work on my technique."

Illinois graduated starting safeties Justin Harrison and Kevin Mitchell, along with top backup Justin Sanders. Bellamy and his safety mates have big holes to fill.

"Justin and Kevin are great guys and great football players, both on and off the football field. Replacing them will be hard because of their leadership and what they brought to the team. We've just got to focus every day, focus on our assignments and technique and just lay our bodies out.

"Kevin and Justin, a lot of people underestimated their athletic ability. When I got here, they got a lot better. We've just got to do the best we can."

The graduates may be gone from the practice field, but they are still around and offering advice to their young replacements.

"Yeah, they tell us to go out and ball all out."

Mitchell and Harrison were known for their hitting ability, and their intimidation factor in the Illini safety may be hard to replace. But Travon feels he and his present teammates have much to offer the two safety positions.

"We all can catch the ball, so we want to establish ourselves as ball hawks. We've just got to show it. We'd like to lead the nation in picks. Fly around to the football and create turnovers."

A hunger burns inside Travon Bellamy to be a starter and hopefully a star. But he is modest about his personal goals.

"I just want to help the team the best way I can. I'm not worried about replacing them, I just want to help my team to produce turnovers and get the ball back to my offense."

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