Josh Brent Transforming Problem Into Asset

The Fighting Illini football team has a large number of returning lettermen, and optimism abounds. But among the question marks is the return of defensive tackle Josh Brent. While his playing status for the first game is still undecided, Brent has made major improvements in his outlook on life and discussed his situation honestly with the media.

Josh Brent made a mistake. The Illinois defensive tackle was arrested for a DUI, and he was suspended from the team for the entire spring practice session. In addition, he was jailed for one month in June. After all he's endured, he was happy after the first day of fall practice.

"It's good to be back on the field," Brent understates.

During the spring, Brent had to watch practice from the sideline. It was tough for him.

"It was very hard sitting out there in the stands. There was pressure from being a key part of this team and a starting defensive lineman, so we struggled a little bit. But we have some younger guys who stepped up and helped fill the void. I'm looking forward to going into camp and helping out the team."

Brent took his punishment seriously and learned from it. Among his responsibilities is community service, which he is still completing. But he has a fresh start.

"I've got somewhat of a clean slate. I still feel I have a debt to pay. I still owe my community and society a little bit. But I do have a new lease on life."

The agile 320 pounder has found a productive and satisfying way to repay his community.

"My main thing is to reach out to kids, maybe help those in the same situation as me to prevent that. Give them insight on what NOT to do. I made the mistake, and I'm looking forward to reconcile."

Brent was asked his low point during the past few months.

"The low point was definitely being incarcerated. I hit rock bottom. I can't get no lower than being in jail. I did a lot of thinking about my actions and the alternatives I could have chosen. How is this gonna affect my life from here on out?"

He was limited on visitors during his jail time, making his time there doubly difficult. But he had support.

"There were a lot of friends and family members whenever I could have a visit. You're allowed two a week, and the team chaplain visited me as much as possible. I did a lot of praying while I was in there."

The Bloomington native was sitting in a jail cell while his teammates were working diligently to get in top shape for the season. One would think all that inactivity would have a deleterious effect on Brent's conditioning, but he provided a positive report.

"I actually didn't. We have one of the greatest strength and conditioning coaches in America. I had about 4 and 1/2 weeks to get myself back in shape working with Coach Lou (Hernandez). I feel working out here today that I haven't lost anything."

Any additional punishments imposed on him are unknown and beyond his ability to control. Whatever is decided, Brent is just grateful to have another chance.

"I'll let Coach handle all that. He hasn't told me anything. I'm just getting ready going into camp. I haven't touched the field since last year's Northwestern game. So It's been awhile for me. I'm just happy to be out here. I'm having fun."

From all indications, Brent has taken a bad situation and transformed his life as a result. His straightforward, honest approach to discussing his problems with the media showed tremendous maturity and courage. He is to be commended for his efforts.

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