Illinois Football Training Camp Blog #9

Freshman Brian Gamble carries the ball during Thursday's practice at Camp Rantoul.
Freshman Brian Gamble carries the ball during Thursday's practice at Camp Rantoul.

Aug. 16, 2007

Thursday Post-Practice Interviews:
Head Coach Ron Zook
Secondary Coach
Curt Mallory
DB Chris Duvalt AUDIO

by Cassie Arner, UI Sports Information

I am writing my daily blog this evening from the cafeteria of Camp Rantoul. It is 10:19 p.m. and the team is sitting here enthralled by a talk being given by Stan "Spider" Jones, a Naval Flight Commander who played for Head Coach Ron Zook when he was at the University of Tennessee. At the end of practice tonight, the team was treated to an air show as "Spider" and one of his fellow pilots, Tim "Tonto" Young from San Diego, Calif., flew two F-18's over the Rantoul fields. They circled around a number of times with the final approach being the most impressive. You see the jets and then a second later you hear them. When they first came around they were going about 350 knots and finally passed over us at 200 feet going about 250 knots.

Commander Stan Jones pilots one of two F-18's over Camp Rantoul Thursday evening.

I know the team was excited to have Spider back here. At dinner the guys were more rambunctious than normal. But what was really nice to hear is how excited they are to be here with our team. I think we have turned Spider into an Illini fan. He admitted to purchasing a couple of our games this year on DirecTV.

Spider and Tonto brought with them another guest, Alex "Flex" Hampton, who is a former Illinois football player (1995-99). He is currently a Lieutenant stationed at Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va. He graduated from Top Gun in 2006, and was one of only 10 percent of the Navy selected to attend the flight school. He talked about the correlations between the military and football, and how the game of football prepared him for a life in the armed services.

Stan "Spider" Jones addresses the Fighting Illini Thursday evening at Camp Rantoul.

Anyway, right now we are watching night landings of F-14's on aircraft carriers. Some of the landings go well, some of them not so well. Watching videos like puts your life in perspective. When we make mistakes, the worst that can happen is we lose games. When they make mistakes, people lose their lives. The real parallels in these two professions come in the trust factor of your team members. Spider talked a lot about bringing every individual in the team up to the level expected of them. Some pilots are naturals, some scrape by with the minimum requirements. It then becomes the responsibility of those around them to make them the type of pilot that they trust to be their wingmen.

We have two players who are especially into this kind of thing--Kevin Mitchell, who enjoys studying war history and the military, and a new walk-on, fullback Tyler Pacha, who aspires to be a pilot.

OTHER PRACTICE NOTES: Illinois' co-defensive coordinator Curt Mallory returned to action today after undergoing emergency surgery on Monday. It was probably a tough first practice out there for him, but he certainly was gutting it out. In a normal situation, he probably should have taken a couple more days to recuperate, but football coaches aren't your average people ... Tomorrow's morning practice session will begin a little later than origininally planned. We will start at 8:35 a.m. and will work solely on individual and special teams work.

Coach Ron Zook addresses the team after Thursday's practice at Camp Rantoul.