Responsible Bussey Holding Starter Role

Converting from a high school quarterback to a college defender takes time and a great deal of repetition. College football is a highly refined sport, and one must be totally aware of how to play his position. It has taken Nate Bussey awhile to find his right spot on defense, but the Illini's new outside linebacker hybrid position suits him well.

Nathan Bussey came to Illinois from Washington D.C. with minimal experience as a safety. After working there for two years, the Illini moved him to outside linebacker, and with Vic Koenning's new defense he is playing a position combining the traits of a linebacker and safety.

Bussey has earned a starting berth, and he has experienced a confidence boost as a result. He accepts the full weight of the additional responsibility.

"Being a starter is really putting a lot of pressure on me. Coach is expecting me to do my assignment to perfection. I'm working every day to become a perfectionist.

"By me starting, it also gives me the opportunity to learn the new defense the coaches are putting in and gives me the chance to get on the field and make plays."

Bussey is by nature a responsible person, so he takes his role seriously.

"I'm an accountable person. If you ask my teammates, they will say that accountability is one thing Nate Bussey does have. I count on a lot of people on the team as well. The coaches want me to be accountable, and I respect that. I'm working to be the best."

Of course, there are always things he needs to improve. He is fast running straight ahead, but defensive backs must flip their hips side to side to keep up with fast receivers. Bussey is working to improve.

"The things I need to work on the most are some of my hip things and a little bit of man coverage. I come out here to learn these things every day, so by the time of the season, I should be where I'm supposed to be."

Bussey is excited about Vic Koenning's defense.

"I feel our defense is spectacular. We're coming together real good. We meet together and do everything together. We kind of became a unit over the summer, and now we're using our unity to come together on the field. Play together and become a better defense."

The whole Illinois team has been toiling in weather with heat indexes above 100 degrees. The first day at Camp Rantoul was the worst. Bussey and his mates are trying to fight through it.

"Humidity killed us. I know I came out with the intensity of doing great, with no mental mistakes or things like that. But the humidity got to a lot of us.

"I think the first day is the hardest day, especially when you have the full pads on. You're out here in this heat, with the humidity."

Still, the Illini have fought through the problem by working hard and learning what is needed for the season. Overcoming adversity is an important theme every year, and ignoring the heat and humidity helps prepare for other battles down the line.

"By the same token, we're gonna get better each day and come out here and strive to be excellent. We're gonna go out each day and make the offense better as well as make ourselves better."

Bussey is the father of a young daughter. She has not been with him this summer, and he can't wait for her return.

"She will be here this fall. This summer she went back home to Washington D.C. to be with my mom. She really wanted me to focus on camp. I've been to see her a couple times. But she will be back with me in the fall.

"It should be a real exciting year because she will know what's going on. And it will make me feel a lot better having her in my presence. Just seeing her grow up every day and me playing football."

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