New Year, New Opportunity For Sirod

The Fighting Illini football team expected to start two seniors at the defensive tackle spots last year, but a preseason injury to Sirod Williams forced younger players to take on more responsibility. Knee surgery forcing a year layoff was a severe blow to Williams, but he hopes to make up for lost time this fall.

Illinois defensive tackle Sirod Williams is grateful to be healthy again and ready to play football.

"It feels great. I have a lot of goals I want to achieve. I've got the confidence, the strength and the speed to do it this year. I feel I'm out here with friends, and the world is mine."

Having the knee surgery so early last fall, Williams was able to recuperate in time to participate in spring drills. He was brought along slowly, and he held up well in the spring game.

"By the time the spring game came, I had about 30 snaps."

The native of Garfield Heights, Ohio, was ready for a banner senior season prior to the injury. If anything, he may be even more ready this year.

"I would say I feel a little bit better because I waited for a year. So I'm more hungry. Last year I was hungry, I was ready. But when you sit somebody out for a year, you're gonna come back even more hungry."

Williams is reluctant to call the injury a blessing in disguise, but the 2008 Illini team underachieved. Thus, he has a chance to conclude his career on a higher note in 2009.

"I really thought last year we were gonna do way better than we did. Obviously, we should have a better season than last year."

He also acknowledges he is better prepared to help the team on and off the field.

"I feel I have more of a leadership role now. I've been with the young guys on the d-line for about a year. So I've built that relationship and that trust. We worked a lot harder this summer, a lot more obstacles for me. So I feel way better this year."

There is one Illinois offensive lineman who sticks out in Williams' mind when asked about their battles in practice.

"I know everybody's gonna say Jon Asamoah, and he's really tough. I get him, but he gets me."

Illinois head coach Ron Zook is certainly happy to have the 6'-0", 295 pounder healthy again. He just wants to make sure he is still healthy when the season begins.

"When Sirod is in there now, you can tell he's a fifth year player. He's the strongest man on the team, and he's excited about his fifth year. I think it's important we bring him along slowly. He's taken a lot of reps in four years, and we want to give him just enough so he's ready to play September 5th."

Williams is especially excited about the potential of the 2009 defensive line.

"I think the returning talent is really hungry to show what they can do. They'll have more of an opportunity this year than last year."

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