Trent Chesnut's job is an anonymous one. If there is one person in constant motion during Illinois football practices, it is Chesnut. And yet, few really understand what his job entails.
"A lot of people who don't know the business think I'm a trainer. Trainers tape ankles for kids. But it's a good gig, and I really like it."
He needs a lot of help doing his job, and he gets it.
"I have 16 students that work for me. Ten of them are paid, and 6 of them are volunteer. Once the paid kids graduate, the volunteers take their spots. So it's a cycle where you keep bring in new people.
"There's another half dozen kids each year who want to do it, so it's a good problem to have. I remember when I first started here we had to recruit kids. Word of mouth, I've got some good kids. I've never had that many before, but they're all undergrads. I don't have one senior. That helps a lot."
Chesnut also has several full-time people who assist him.
"Kyle Croy is an assistant who helps out. He's mainly our uniform guy. Ben Bloom was our GA, but he graduated so I'll be getting a new GA. Even though John Birdsell works out of Huff now, he still works for us during football season and makes all the road trips."
He is also responsible for all the student managers. It truly takes a community of people working behind the scenes to keep a football operation running smoothly, and Chesnut is in charge of many of them.
There is rarely a time he can take off as college football is a year-round operation. It starts with winter conditioning after the conclusion of the previous football season. Illini players have equipment needs throughout the winter as they do weight training and conditoning with Strength and Conditioning Coach Lou Hernandez and his staff.
That effort becomes magnified during what Illini coaches and players affectionately call "6:00ams." The early-rising team goes through an intense three week program just prior to spring practice, and Chesnut has to be there for all of it.
"It's long days. We get here at 4:45am and probably leave at 5:15pm. That's for three weeks. I like to have the window open by 5:15am.
"We're finishing up the laundry. They'll be two loads of laundry in the dryers. We'll take them out and put in the lockers for the kids."
"I like to go out and make sure the turf (Irwin Indoor facility) has been dragged. Maintenance will do it most of the time, but I'll get in my golf cart and drag the indoors so it's all nice and fluffed and ready to go for that morning. And then we just work the window. Nick Richey (athletic trainer) usually gets here 5-10 minutes before I do."
Chesnut must then provide all the equipment players will need for spring practice.
"For spring ball, we've got to get the helmets put out, shoulder pads, spider pads, thigh pads, all the stuff we can't have out during the nonpractice session. There's a rule you can't have any type of protected gear in their lockers during the off season for fear they'll go out and wear it and bang into each other."
Chesnut and his staff prepare the fields (outside when weather permits) for each practice and then tear it back down afterwards. There was no spring scrimmage off campus this spring, but that will likely return next year. Preparing to take a team on the road, whether for spring ball, Camp Rantoul, or the fall season will be discussed in part 6 of this 8-part series.