On the day that spring football practices were supposed to start, senior center Doug Kramer met the media via teleconference to discuss the offseason interruption that has struck the world.
When March Madness was cancelled, the NBA and NHL paused and MLB delayed the start of its season — due to the COVID-19 pandemic — many people forget that even sports out of season have also been placed on pause.
With hype surrounding Illinois Basketball and the cloud the coronavirus put on the country, it is easy to forget that Illinois’ football team made its first bowl game for the first time in years just three months ago.
For the Illini captain, this hiatus in spring ball is about not losing sight of the program’s goal to keep building.
“Keep hope, stay locked in on what we were focused on and needed to do,” Kramer said.
But this season means even more for the Illini center, who was named to the Rimington Trophy (nation’s top center) Watch List a season ago and had a good chance to win the award before his season was cut short due to injury in the Illini’s loss to Northwestern.
The senior is working on potentially making the NFL, but beyond that he is looking to lead the Illini back to a bowl game where he will hopefully get a chance to play.
Kramer had worked back to full-health and was looking forward to improving in spring ball.
“I was going to do as much as I could [in spring practice], try to work in full, 100 percent,” Kramer said. “Before spring break, I was cutting, doing a lot of change of direction stuff. So I was feeling really healthy, feeling good and I was excited to get back in spring ball and play football again.”
On a broader scale, Kramer said missing out on spring ball means a lot to the Illini.
“One thing you’ll definitely miss out on is the reps,” Kramer said. “The biggest thing about spring is you’re just going to get a ton of reps.”
Without those reps, and without access to the team’s facilities, Kramer stressed the importance of staying in shape — and how the coaching staff has been trying to combat the unusual circumstances.
“Some of the strength coaches are reaching out to their lifting groups,” Kramer said. “Sending out some weight room stuff, if you have a weight room you can use. Then, if not, they’re sending out some body weight stuff, some running stuff. It’s kind of just figuring out and adapting to what situation you’re in. You’ve got to stay in shape somehow.”
But despite not getting those reps and the difficulty of staying in shape, one of the nation’s top centers stayed optimistic.
”While you’re away, you can still get a lot done.”