Patrick Nixon-Youman came to Illinois as a promising cornerback last fall. The graduate of Middleburg High School in Jacksonville, Florida, was named to ESPN.com's Top 150 and chose the Illini over Florida, South Florida, LSU and West Virginia.
He practiced during Camp Rantoul before being forced to sit out the semester when the NCAA refused to clear his high school transcripts. He was discouraged, but he never once considered changing schools during his time back in Florida.
"I like it here. Through everything Coach Zook, Coach Disch, and everybody in this program stayed behind me so I had no reason to go anywhere else."
Thinking everything was in order, Pat rejoined his teammates for second semester. But since the NCAA still was processing his clearance, he couldn't participate in football-related activities with his teammates.
"I did not participate in winter conditioning. I got back in school when we came back from Christmas break. But I still couldn't do anything because I didn't have everything situated. It was tough."
After an excruciating wait that was not resolved until right after the beginning of spring practice, Nixon-Youman finally got to do what he loves.
"I finally got it done, and now I'm excited and ready to get it going. I'm definitely making up for a lot of lost time. They're gonna make sure I get everything out here."
Fortunately, it didn't take Pat long to acclimate to football.
"No, it didn't take long. I worked out on my own, so I got it going a little bit and stayed in shape. It wasn't near as good as these guys are doing. They were on the (Coach) Lou (Hernandez) program."
It appears the 5'-10", 165 pounder is a quick learner.
"It's not that hard because I keep learning as I go. I watch the guys and learn their technique and what they're doing. Just go from there."
Technique work is often cited by players as the most difficult part of their learning process. But not Patrick. He considers that his best characteristic.
"Right now, I'd probably say technique. It's not that I had that good of training in high school. I take a little bit from what I learned in high school, the little bit I did learn when I came in during the summer and the few weeks of camp. I kept that mindset and worked on it a little bit."
Of course, there is still plenty to learn.
"I want to learn the whole defense, learn my responsibility and all the calls and checks."
Despite modest size, Nixon-Youman is a hard hitter.
"I try to do what I can, but it's kind of hard going against guys that are 200 pounds. I'll continue to develop a little bit more, so I should be all right."
Unfortunately, he was making one of his patented tackles in a spring scrimmage and tore an abdominal muscle that attaches to his pelvis. He must have surgery to repair it, but hopefully he will be healthy and ready to go by fall. It is another setback for the bright, smiling youngster, but he will not be deterred. After all, he has already endured worse. At least now he knows he will be playing college football once his injury heals.
"Yes, it's a wonderful feeling. I just have to take care of the classroom, and the football aspect will take care of itself."
Pat is a man on a mission, both on the field and in academia. He has high hopes of majoring in a difficult curriculum.
"I'm thinking about Mechanical Engineering. It won't be difficult to get into, but it will be difficult to do. This is a pretty good engineering program here, so it will be challenging. But I'm willing to take on the challenge."
Patrick added Youman to his name since last fall. He explains his reasoning.
"When I was young, my grandfather was a big part of my life. He passed in 1999, and he never got the chance to see me play ball. So I'm kind of using his name in remembrance."
Pat has endured a couple setbacks in his brief college career, but he will not let them discourage him or keep him from reaching his goals. In fact, don't be surprised if it just makes him stronger.