Block Gets Second ChanceTo Lead Offensive Line

Fifth-year senior OL Eric Block
Fifth-year senior OL Eric Block

April 7, 2009

by Jonathan Zobrist

When senior center Eric Block ran off the field after the finale at Northwestern last year in Evanston, Ill., he thought it was his last for the Illini.

"Obviously, I was disappointed the way the year and my career ended," Block said. "It was your typical senior moment, pretty much."

However, a couple of months later the New Orleans, La., native received news he had not been expecting. Due to an injury riddled sophomore season, during which Block never played, the NCAA granted him a fifth year and a second chance.

"I was in the car driving home," Block said. "I actually had to pull over to the side of the road because I was a little too jumpy and didn't want to lose control of the car. It was definitely the best news I have ever received."

Receiving a second chance to do something you love doesn't happen every day. Understandably, Block brings a little extra motivation to spring practices this year.

"There is no time to waste this year," Block said. "I know what it feels like to be a senior and not live up to expectations. I feel extremely blessed to have this opportunity and work every day to make sure we don't make the same mistakes."

For a talented group on the offensive line, the work never stops. Led by Block and fellow senior Jon Asamoah the offensive line has been the last group off the practice field this spring.

"We realize the potential we have," Asamoah said. "We have a great core of guys that have experience and know how to perform during the grind of games. To get where we want to be, we have to put in the work to get there."

Behind the seniors, are a big and skilled group of veteran linemen including juniors Randall Hunt and Ryan Palmer, along with sophomore Jeff Allen. They will be called upon heavily to keep the ground game moving and protect senior quarterback Juice Williams.

"Protecting the ball and sustaining drives has been the focus in practice," Allen said. "We know it's up to us to make sure we open up the lanes for our backs to run and block for Juice to get the ball to the receivers. Our success or failure on offense starts with us."

Added to the mix for the 2009 season is new offensive line coach Joe Gilbert. The transition to Gilbert¹s style has been a smooth one.

"We haven't missed a beat," Block said. "Coach Gilbert is a great guy and is very technically sound. Technique is the biggest part of the offensive line, so we have made some serious strides with his help."

Second chances are hard to come by, and no one knows the importance of using them effectively more than Block and the Fighting Illini offensive line. With a veteran and skilled group, there is no doubt the 2009 offensive line will use their second chance wisely.