Speaking after the first day of fall practice, Floridian Jarred Fayson talked about how thrilled he is to be part of a football team preparing for a 12 game schedule again.
"I feel great. When I was out here warming up, I wasn't even doing much and I was just dripping sweat. I was just filled with adrenalin."
He wouldn't go into detail as to why he transferred to Illinois, but he is "abolutely" glad he did. He was able to practice with the team through two spring sessions and last fall, but only now will he be able to see the field. He is relieved his period of exile is nearly over.
"This is the time that counts. I'm actually in the mix now. I'm a starter now, and everything we do is geared toward beating Missouri."
Most fans have yet to see Fayson in action. He participated in the spring game 2008 and ran a kickoff back for a touchdown, but he had to sit out the same game in 2009 due to a foot injury. It was said to be a minor problem at the time, but there was a long recovery period.
"It took about 6-8 weeks. It was a long process. I'm glad it's over with, and I'm injury-free."
One blessing of the extended layoff was his ability to hit the weight room. The 6'-1" Fayson has bulked up considerably since his high school days.
"I got a little bit of weight on me. I worked hard man. I weighed in at 213 today. I did 405 in the bench press."
Fayson was a 5-star All-American quarterback at Tampa Hillsborough, and he played as a freshman with Florida's national championship team. He was used in a variety of ways there.
"I did a few things at quarterback. I actually had my own little package when I was there. But I was mostly a receiver there. They did move me around, and I could fit in wherever. I was rotated with the running backs, I could be either in the slot position or outside."
His versatility will be an asset with the Illini as well, but he expects to work primarily at receiver and punt returner. He has blazing speed and an amazingly quick acceleration from a standing position. If he gets some protection, he could spring one or more punts for touchdowns. He's looking forward to the opportunity and expects no nervousness the first time doing it this fall.
"I'm feeling good. I'm confident. I'm gonna catch about a 1000 punts, maybe 2000 before the first game. That's just something that comes with repetition. When that playing time comes, there will be absolutely no pressure on me because I already did it so many times, caught so many styles of punt. I'll be ready to go."
A junior with two years of eligibility, Fayson also serves as a leader on the team. He is pleased for the opportunity and embraces it.
"I'm happy the guys here accepted me the way they did. I came in and did what I was asked. I earned my stripes through hard work, showing I'm dedicated to team first. I feel that's what got me in the position I am now.
"Help your teammates when you can sometimes. It may not always be what you like to do, but you've just got to help them out."
The Illini no longer have a target on their backs, a problem last year's team faced. Few outside the program expect them to do well this year, but Fayson says that lack of respect will be used to their advantage.
"I'm very confident in our offense and in our team as a whole. We have a big chip on our shoulders. That's gonna be our battle cry, that's gonna be our little secret. We're ready to go."