My first impression of Miles Osei came about a year before either of us ended up in Champaign.
The night of Oct. 30, 2009, was the last time I suited up for a high school football game at Carmel Catholic in Mundelein, but I spent much of the evening watching from the sidelines as the Osei-led Prospect offense scored over and over again against my defensive teammates. Their scheme was simple, yet effective: spread out the receivers, isolate Osei, and let him run.
That’s what many high school athletes headed to Power 5 schools look like, their special talent sets them apart and allows them to take over games seemingly on their own.
Osei earned my respect that night, and I always kept tabs on him while he was on the Illini roster. As a freshman, he avoided a redshirt but found very limited playing time at quarterback, appearing in only three games in a backup role behind Nate Scheelhaase. His career took an unusual turn the next season, as Ron Zook began to use Osei to return kickoffs. His best return was for 14 yards in a 31-14 loss at home against No. 22 Michigan.
As was the case with many players originally recruited by Ron Zook, Osei needed to reinvent himself following Zook’s firing. Though continuing as a backup quarterback alongside Reilly O’Toole in the first few games of 2012, Osei made the switch to receiver during the Sept. 29 matchup against Penn State. Over the course of the season, Osei accumulated 50 yards receiving, 47 yards rushing and 79 yards passing. His usage was considerably limited by the disastrously ineffective Beatty-Gonzalez offense.
Osei’s patience with the tumultuous circumstances of Illini football paid off in 2013, as he was able to flourish in Bill Cubit’s pro-style offense. During the 2013 season, Osei racked up 349 receiving yards and one touchdown on 35 receptions. He also continued his role of kickoff returner and added 93 yards on five returns with a long of 32 yards. Osei’s athleticism allowed him to take on punt return duties as well, and he added another 84 yards on seven returns with a long of 38 yards in that role.
His athleticism helped him to put together some impressive highlights over the years:
Miles Osei persevered when the situation around him changed repeatedly, and he successfully adapted to find several new roles during a particularly chaotic period in Illinois football history.
I respect Osei for rolling with the changes and doing whatever it took to help get a few wins during his playing days, rather than leaving to play the specific role he wanted at some other school. For that, Miles Osei more than earned his status in recent Illini football lore: a guy worth remembering.