CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Blake Jeresaty’s first season at Illinois did not go according to plan.
“It was definitely a low point for me in my athletic career,” says the former First Team All-Conference center.
Jeresaty committed to the Illini last summer after playing in 35 games at Wofford, an FCS school in South Carolina. The offensive lineman arrived at Illinois with a torn labrum, so when the season got canceled, he used it as an opportunity to have surgery on his shoulder. Although, he didn’t anticipate the season to come back just three weeks later.
“You can get through anything if you can lean on the people around you,” says Jeresaty. “All those guys, every single day, not making me feel bad about the decision I had to make. But just pushing me up saying, ‘Hey we got you next year. We need you next year.'”
Now it’s finally his time to step in. With Alex Palczewski sidelined with an ACL injury, and Kendrick Green leaving for the NFL Draft, the door is wide open for a starting spot.
“They’re giving me an opportunity to succeed and compete, just like the other guys, and I have to go out and earn it,” says Jeresaty. “I think if I do that, I’ll be in a really good position that I’m happy with home fall.”
“He’s got all the right things, practice has been very impressive for me,” says Illinois head coach Bret Bielema. “He’s physical, he’s smart, he’s intelligent. He can play left and right guard, and center. That’s very very good for us and for him.”
Bielema says that versatility gives him NFL potential. Jeresaty hopes to reach that level one day, but still has plenty to prove as he looks ahead to his first game in the Power Five.
“I came here to play against the best competition in the country, and play on the big stage.”