New Illinois Signee Excited About Opportunity

Junior college athletes have only two years to play major college sports, so they have to find a school that needs them for immediate playing time. They don't have the luxury of developing within a system. Aaron Gress found such a program in the University of Illinois. The California defender fits right into a position of need.

A standout linebacker at College Of The Sequoias in California, Aaron Gress knows he will have an opportunity to compete for a starting berth right away at Illinois.

"They lost three seniors last year, so I'll have a good chance to come in and compete. I'll play anywhere they need me."

Aaron is capable of playing any linebacker position and may get a chance to show his wares at all three spots. Since he was a qualifier out of high school and also has earned his Associates Degree from junior college, he will be able to enroll for second semester where he can get a head start on learning the defense.

"Spring ball will be a good opportunity for me, so I'm excited about that."

The Dan Disch recruit made his visit to Illinois just last weekend, but it made enough of an impression on him that he signed a scholarship tender to attend UI Wednesday morning.

"I liked the atmosphere there. I liked the coaches, and I got along with all the players. I felt like I fit in. The campus was really nice, and I enjoyed being there. I really enjoyed the visit. It wasn't too cold. I think I can get used to the cold."I really enjoyed the campus. It was really nice. The stadium was amazing. It seemed like a fun place to play. Russell Ellington was my host."

Aaron Gless is a late bloomer. He attended Exeter Union High School, located 45 minutes South of Fresno, California, but he was too small and underdeveloped to go right to a major college.

"I wasn't highly recruited out of high school. Actually, I wasn't recruited at all. I just kind of took a year off and put some weight on, and then I came back to play JC ball.

"I spent 6 months in Samoa. It was a missionary thing with my church. I then came back and took the rest of the year off to work a little bit and work out, and so I wouldn't use any of my eligibility. And then I started JC in '07."

In 2 and 1/2 years, he grew from 180 pounds to 228, and his football reputation grew along with it. He was one of his team's stars this last year even though the team struggled at times.

"We were decent. We were 5-5. We should have been better. We lost all but one game by less than a touchdown. We lost our offensive coordinator in the first game of the season, so our offense never did get going. But we had one of the best defenses in the state."

Coach Andy Siegal raves about him, and Illini coaches are now happy to have him in the fold. But they are no happier than Aaron Gress is to have his opportunity at Illinois.

"I haven't been able to sleep the last couple of nights. I can't wait to get there. Hopefully, I'm gonna work hard to earn a position. I'm looking forward to it."


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