The American Way
Here's all I can do. This is the only thing I can write. When, in the 35th game of a head coach, you lose 63-0, there are no postgame posts to write. There's no analysis to be made. All I can do is let Austin Roberts talk about the University we love.
Here's my background with Austin. When Justice Williams verballed in the 2015 class, in the LLOUI post, I believe, I made this little joke about calling freshman linebacker Tre Watson "The Truth", calling Justice Williams "Justice", and calling Austin Roberts "The American Way" - something like "and then our 2018 defense will have Truth, Justice, and The American Way at linebacker.
Then, about a year later (at training camp I think?), I forgot that it was Roberts who was going to be The American Way. I assigned the name to another freshman linebacker (Julian Jones). Austin Roberts came up to me at Camp Rantoul and said something like "hey man, you gave away my nickname". Honestly, I've felt bad about it for three years. It would be pretty cool to be a football player and have some dork blogger assign you a nickname, and then to take that nickname away and give it to someone else? Ugh - bad blogger.
Roberts had a rough journey in his five years. When he arrived on campus he was rehabbing a torn ACL from high school. And then, in his sophomore season, another torn ACL. He was a linebacker, and then he was a tight end, and then he was a fullback, and then he was a tight end. He played for Tim Beckman, and then he played for Bill Cubit, and then he played for Lovie Smith. I mean, he started his Illini career on defense and he still played for three different offensive coordinators.
As I've written many times, these are the decisions the adults around him made. We're so incredibly unfair to our players in this pursuit of rebuilding football. They get tossed around in the dryer until some administrator hears the sound and realizes they might have left their wallet in their jeans.
That's Austin Roberts' career. That's Mikey Dudek's career. This was Senior Day, and that's their story. Life can be so unfair.
But just listen to them. You've heard Mikey tell his story. You've seen Scott Van Pelt cover it on SportsCenter. If adversity makes the man, these have to be some of the best men this program has ever produced. Austin is off to med school next fall, and when I tear my ACL in a men's over-50 bocce ball league in 2026, I want him performing the surgery.
This school - this amazing place that will forever feel like home to me - still produces incredible human beings capable of so much in the world. Once per fall, usually after our worst loss, I go walk the quad and remind myself why I do this. That's where I'm headed after I finish typing. I won't feel any better - how could I possibly feel better after a 63-0 loss? - but after talking to Austin, I need to go tag home. You'll understand why when you listen to the interview below.
The adults in charge? Bad decisions, across the board, for decades, leaving this fanbase to deal with being a national laughingstock. The student athletes? Superheroes. Six ACL tears between Austin Roberts, Mikey Dudek, and Dre Brown, and that's three young men I would follow into battle. Adversity has made men.
Adults? You'd better fix it and quick. Mikey Dudek? Superman.
Austin Roberts? The American Way.