WCIA — Playing college football 30 minutes from home is just an added bonus to Illinois defensive lineman Bryce Barnes.

“It’s cool to have all my family and friends be able to come to games, practices, or whatever they want,” Barnes said. “I guess it’s just an added bonus for me being a local guy.”

The Gibson City native knew he wanted to play college football, and four seasons in he’s still living his dream with the Orange and Blue. Defensive line coach Terrance Jamison said Barnes has gained about 45 pounds from last year to now. He started as a walk-on tight end before earning a scholarship last season. The lineman has played in almost every game of his college career, but with four starters on the line moving on he has the perfect opportunity to get more playing time.

“Our program is built on guys like Bryce,” Jamison said. “Guys like him who can work their tails off and put themselves in rotation. He has the opportunity to start this year and so having a guy like that, like Bryce, that helps us stabilize winning.”

“I knew I was going to have to work for what I’ve gotten and I just put my head down and grind,” Barnes said. “That’s what I’m here for. That’s what I made of and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

Barnes hasn’t had an easy path, mostly playing on special teams for his three seasons. But four years after starting the 2A State Championship game at Memorial Stadium, getting the chance to do it for his college will mean that much more.

“I went to a few games and then my senior year of high school you know I knew that I wanted to play college football,” Barnes said. “I didn’t know it was going to be here, at the time I didn’t get offered, but as my recruiting process went along I got offered that walk on spot and I knew right away I wanted to play at home state.”