Brandon Moore Enjoys Return To Illinois

One of the pleasures of the Spring Game is seeing former Illini return. Each year, two are selected as honorary coaches, and they provide inspiration and encouragement for the present squad. Brandon Moore helped lead the 2001 Illini to a Big Ten Championship and Sugar Bowl berth, and he's now a fixture on the New York Jets. He reflected on his time at Illinois.

Former Illinois defensive tackle Brandon Moore returned to campus for the Spring Game Saturday. He has started the last 76 games for the New York Jets as an offensive guard, but the transition from defense to offense was difficult.

"It was a long road. I got cut about three or four times. I was in NFL Europe, but eventually it stuck, and I made the most of that opportunity. I'm doing pretty well at it. It just feels funny coming back here knowing I was a d-lineman. It seems like another life of mine. I've embraced it, and I enjoy playing offensive line a lot."

Moore spoke briefly with the current Illini team. His story is one of perseverence and determination, making him an ideal resource for a team that is trying to get back on a winning track.

"It's been good to come back and talk to the guys, in some way try to be a little inspiration to them all. Like I told the guys, you have to understand you're measured by wins. You can look back on it with a lot of pride. The facilities look the part, and you've got the players."

Moore hadn't been back in awhile, and he was impressed by all the additions to Memorial Stadium.

"I came back three or four years ago for a game against O-State. But I haven't seen all this. The locker room and the weight room and all that was new. It doesn't have to be new to compete and win."

Moore, along with fellow captains Bobby Jackson, Luke Butkus and Kurt Kittner provided tremendous leadership during the 2001 season. So it was not surprising he stressed the importance of leadership in his talk with the players.

"Yeah, that's what I was telling them. When we came in, we had a nice class my rookie year. We grew together, and that final year we had the leadership.

"The guys before had leadership too. Even though we weren't winning as many games, Danny Clark's in the League, Rameel Connor, Fred Wakefield. We had those guys. That leadership my senior year was real strong. It showed in us winning and getting to the Sugar Bowl.

"You had Bobby Jackson back there, inside you had me. All the guys in key positions were seniors. All those guys had grown up at Illinois, and we took off with it and did pretty well."

Speaking at halftime of the spring game, Moore emphasized the defensive talent on the field when sharing his thoughts on the team.

"They look good. I don't know much about them, but a few guys are standing out. Especially on the 2's. They have a lot of good players. I like (Justin) Staples, and 94 (Akeem Spence) inside on the twos, and 48 (Nate Palmer) made some plays. Yeah, there are some guys standing out, and that's what you need."

Moore enjoyed his return to C-U, but his thoughts were mixed with concerns about his pro team. The NFL draft was concluding, and the Jets have been making many changes recently.

"I'm just trying to keep up with them. My head is spinning. It's a totally different team. They just got rid of two more guys. I've got to get back home and do some studying of the roster to figure out who's on the team."

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