INDIANPOLIS (WCIA) — College football is here. Illinois arrived at Big Ten Football Media days on Thursday, with head coach Bret Bielema in attendance, along with super-seniors Vederian Lowe, Owen Carney, and Doug Kramer all making an appearance at Lucas Oil Stadium.
It was the first media day for Bret Bielema as the Illini head coach, although he’s no stranger to the conference. Last time Illinois head coach Bret Bielema was at Lucas Oil Stadium, he walked off the field as Big Ten Champions with Wisconsin. Now his journey has come full circle as he starts his Illinois career on the same field.
“So the stage was big, but to me, the two games that I won here as a Big Ten Championship were two of the greatest memories in my career,” says Bielema. “You got confetti falling, and the smiles and to know that where you’re headed. I said, let’s just kind of absorb today when you’re in here. Full circle and some, I think it’s a tremendous opportunity, it’s not one I take lightly. It’s something that I’m very very excited to be apart of”
Nine years later the head man for the Illini is being tasked with something new — rebuilding and retooling his home state school. Each of the three players he brought with him to media day had the chance to leave or go pro, but Bielema convinced all three to stay for their super senior years.
“He’s big on relationships and that’s something I love too,” says Kramer. “Building strong relationships, building trust between coaches and players. It’s been something that’s always been important to me.”
“I think that when camps starts, we’re gonna hit the ground running,, with our chemistry that has been built throughout winter workouts, spring ball practice and also summer training has been unlike any other and so I just think that this years gonna be very different in many different ways,” says Vederian Lowe.
In his time in the Big Ten, Bielema coached the Badgers to seven bowl games — as many as Illinois has been to since 1999. His competitors on the sideline remember his run of success in the league, and have high praise for the coach trying trying to do it all over again.
“I think his blueprint for success all you have to do is watch the tape. So, absolutely I think he’ll be able to rebuild it, you just have to be patient, these things don’t happen overnight.” says Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald.
“I know they’re gonna be well coached. I know they’re gonna play a tough brand of offense and defense and special teams,” says Maryland head coach Mike Locksley. “Because that’s the type of coach that Bret is. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and the program that he’s gonna build.”
College football season is officially here — it’s now just 10 days until Illinois reports to training camp to begin their season.