Dunbar Pipeline Sparking Illini Resurgence
Oct. 21, 2007
Sophomore cornerback Vontae Davis, freshman wide receiver Arrelious Benn and freshman safety Nathan Bussey all hail from Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. Davis is one of the top corners in the Big Ten with three interceptions and two blocked punts this season, Benn is one of the top freshmen in the country and also is dangerous on kick returns, and Bussey is biding his time on the special teams unit with three senior safeties ahead of him on the depth chart.
Recently, Ben Taylor from the Illinois Sports Information office got their thoughts on everything from the why so many D.C. players end up here, to their expectations for this year, to Bussey's style.
How long have you three known each other?
Davis: I knew Rejus in elementary. We played together. We went to the school down the street. I knew Nate before we went to Dunbar, so junior high school.
Benn: I knew Nate when we played AAU basketball.
Bussey: We all go back, we've got a little history. We go way back.
Rejus and Nate, how much did Vontae coming here and having a good freshman season affect your decision?
Bussey: I didn't have a lot of schools to choose from, so I went ahead and took the best offer I had on the table. And after watching him play his freshman year, I knew I could come in and be a difference-maker, too.
Benn: I could've gone anywhere in the country, but I couldn't give up playing with my best friend on the next level. Not too many people can do that, plus I wanted to be part of a rebuilding process.
Everybody's wondering, what makes you guys want to leave D.C. to come to Champaign?
Benn: Just trying to get away and experience new things. Different setting, different type of atmosphere. Here it's kind of slow. We're from D.C. where it's pretty fast. We just wanted to go somewhere and make a statement that D.C. football is what it is. We're not going to get overlooked anymore.
Bussey: There's a lot of talent in D.C. that everybody's just looking past. Having a recruiter like Coach Locksley who's from the area, he came and recognized the talent that we had and he brought us in here to do big things in the Big Ten.
Coach Locksley's kind of the Pied Piper of D.C., huh?
Davis: He's like a father figure away from home. Every day he came to Dunbar, we'd just laugh and joke around with him. The coaches from other schools who came, we just didn't have the relationship with them.
Benn: He's a player's coach like Coach Zook.
Do you guys have any funny stories about Coach Locksley from recruiting?
Benn: One day he fell down the steps coming into our school. It was wintertime with ice and snow, though. He had those little penny loafers on.
Bussey: It hasn't really been that tough. I just get people calling me every day telling me I have to wait my turn. By coming here and having to wait behind three seniors who are doing great right now means I just have to wait to make my impact. But by playing (on special teams) as a true freshman, I just feel like I have to make plays every time I'm on the field.
J Leman always calls the team a hybrid of wise, old players like himself and Mitchell, and young, talented guys like you three. What do you think about that analogy?
Bussey: That's just showing respect for the older guys and the younger guys. J knows, just like Coach Zook knows and everybody else knows, that this program is about to go to another level. By being the older guys who have been here for a while, they know that they've been a part of the rebuilding process by being here for this long.
Has this season lived up to each of your expectations so far?
Benn: No, not at all. I'm halfway close to my expectations, but I'm not there yet.
Davis: I really don't know. Everything happens for a reason. I always feel like I can do better, but right now I'm just satisfied with what I'm doing and I thank God for letting me play every Saturday with no injuries.
Vontae, Kevin Mitchell says you call him the old man of the secondary. What's up with that?
Davis: You know, he's a fifth-year senior; his freshman year I was coming out of elementary school or something like that. You think about it, he's kind of like a father back in the secondary. He's like my brother's age. And he's got that whole structure of an old man, he walks with his chest poked out. He's just entirely like an old man.
What famous group do you guys relate best to: the Three Musketeers, the Three Stooges or the Wayans brothers?
Bussey: I can think of one for us. Triple Threat, that's all I can think of. That's a good title for us.
Benn: I tell you one thing, we're mutants. So X-Men, or Justice League, or something like that.
What do you guys think of Nate's style?
Davis: That's just Nate. Nate just has to have his personality glasses on and a button-up. That's just him; he's been doing that since high school.
Benn: Yeah, a button-up and bright shoes.
Davis: Nate's just a fly guy, that's just Nate, man.
Bussey: I just try to be different. I just try to bring a new style to the younger generation. But these guys have style, too. You've got to catch them on their good days. They'd be wearing stylish shoes, I'm not the only one.
Davis: You've got to catch us on our good day. But every day, my man Nate's doing it.
Benn: Every day. The first day of school, you'd have thought Nate was getting ready for the prom. We all had our training camp stuff on.
Who's funnier: Coach Mallory or Coach Pry?
Benn: I'd say Coach Pry.
Bussey: I don't really know Coach Pry, but when I'm in a meeting with Coach Mal...
Davis: He makes us laugh.
Bussey: But when it's time to get serious, he gets serious.
Vontae, how funny was it when Coach Mallory spilled coffee on his laptop during a film session?
Davis: Yeah, it was funny because he said "somebody" spilled coffee on his laptop after he spilled it. He just called in Taylor Morgan, our video guy at the time, and said somebody spilled on it after we saw him do it.
What's funny about Coach Pry?
Benn: Just the way he talks.
Bussey: Yeah, his voice is funny to me.
Benn: Just the way he talks and how he says things...
Bussey: `Catch the ball!'
Benn: There'll be a lot of times when he'll tell us one thing and Locks will tell us something else and Coach Pry will try to act like he didn't tell us that first.
Bussey: `Come on, Rejus, run a good route!'
Say Rejus runs deep down the sideline and you're locked up in man coverage, Vontae, with Nate helping over the top. Who makes the play?
Benn: I'm coming down with the ball. I'm gonna get blasted or something, but I'm coming down with it. I'm going up all body and just coming down.
Davis: I'm going to hit him low, Nate's going to hit him high. (laughter all around)
Benn: Like I said, but I'm gonna come down with it.
Davis: It's like Remember the Titans.
Who's the bigger ladies' man?
Benn: Nate kinda is, but I'd say I'm the ladies' man. I'm undercover with mine, nobody knows about me.
Bussey: Like everything he says. He told me I have to sleep fast one day.
Davis: `Don't let the mule go blind.' Like, what's that supposed to mean?
Bussey: He says all sorts of things. There really isn't any kind of favorite, he's just a funny guy.