Nate Bussey is one of the hardest workers on the Illinois football team. The graduate of Dunbar High School in Washington, D. C., was a champion in winter conditioning, and his maturity and physical development served him well in spring practices.
"In winter conditioning, I was just trying to be as productive off the field as on the field," Nate explains. "So when the season comes, I can be as productive on the field as I was in the offseason."
Bussey became a visual role model for his teammates. He was able to add muscle in the off season.
"I gained about 6 pounds of muscle. I went from 219 to 225 real quick. I just need to maintain right now. I don't think I need to get very much bigger because my physicality and unique skill set can take me a long way."
He has moved from safety to the weakside linebacker spot, and he seems to be enjoying the position.
"Right now, linebacker is working out pretty well for me. I'm enjoying being down in the box, playing with Martez (Wilson) and Ian (Thomas) and all those guys. There's a lot of things I need to work on because it's a new position for me. My physicality and all will help make me a unique player in the box."
That uniqueness allows him to be useful in several ways.
"Right now, I'm just playing the WILL. In the dime package, I play the dime, which is an extra safety or linebacker. I'm getting a lot of reps and trying to get better so when the season comes I can be looked at as a potential starter."
His experience playing safety last year helps him at his new position.
"Playing safety helped me out a whole lot. I still have to do some of the db stuff like cover the number two receiver. So I take my db skills and convert it to down in the box."
Nate did some special teams work two years ago as a freshman, so that plus last fall have helped his maturation.
"Getting to play last fall was good for my confidence level. I know how tough a game can be. Playing at Ohio State my freshman year and coming out with a big victory there was good. I also know how the tough times were before I got here. My confidence is building, and hopefully it will take me a long way."
Bussey was especially prominent this spring in blitz situations. He flashed in on the quarterback too rapidly for escape several different times. There are few linebackers faster than he.
"Blitzing is new to me because I was a quarterback in high school, and then I played safety. So coming off the edge and blitzing is another strength in my game. I love doing it. Blitzing and covering people, I like the overall game. I'm using my speed more. Instead of backpedaling, I'm going forward more. So it's really helped me out playing linebacker."
Of course, a hard worker can always find things to improve upon.
"The thing I need to work on the most is reading my keys, the flow of the different backs and quarterback. Once I get the reads down pat, I'll be a better ball player."
Little by little, Bussey the athlete is evolving into a quality football player. But the Broadcast Journalism major has another major responsibility off the field that makes him a better human being as well. At the March Pro Timing Day, Nate was seen nurturing a newborn baby.
"I have a little girl, her name is Serenity. She's five months old. She's gonna be at all the games, and she knows for real who's her father. I take care of her because of the fact my father was never around. I want to be there for her. I take care of her and her mom. We're still together. We're toughing it out."
Nate Bussey is a winner, in life as well as football. Rooting for him is a snap.