The first thing you notice about Austin Teitsma is his smile. It seems like he is always grinning ear to ear. It is hard to remain in a bad mood when around him.
"I caught him one morning walking in without a smile" Illinois head coach Ron Zook remembers. "I told him that was the first time since I've known him that he didn't have a smile on his face."
Teitsma admits there are times when he doesn't feel like smiling, but the smile soon returns.
"Yeah, God helps me out for sure. I'm usually pretty happy though."
His favorite word seems to be "awesome." He has an over-the-top personality that seems to find good in most things. For instance, he was recruited as a defensive end but was moved to tackle in summer camp. It didn't seem to bother him a bit.
"Yeah, I'm playing d-tackle now. I guess they moved me because they don't have as many people at that position. They're trying to get me in the rotation, which would be awesome."
Of course, that required him to bulk up from his high school weight. The dedicated weight lifter doesn't mind that either.
"For sure. I've been working really hard and gaining a lot, which is awesome. I'm about 254 now. I do a lot with the team. Before I worked out a ton, very strictly."
Teitsma will eventually tip the scales at 280 or more, which more closely fits the requirements at tackle. He feels he and fellow freshman Jake Howe can make a solid tandem for four years.
"Yeah I do. I'm comfortable there. It's fun, and I get to be with my roommate Jake Howe, which is sweet. He's a nose guard."
He admits it has taken time to learn all the nuances of the college game, but he has enjoyed plenty of help.
"It's been good. It's a lot quicker up here for sure. The people are awesome athletes. But I like it. A lot of the older guys helped me out with it a lot, which is so nice. They were all very helpful. They're all great."
The former Glenbard South star may eventually replace Corey Liuget in the Illini lineup and has similar traits.
"I'm fast, I'm quick off the ball. I'm pretty strong, and I've got a lot of heart."
"He's got great quickness, he's got great leverage. He's a wrestler. Those guys usually do pretty well. He's gonna get big. He'll be a guy who'll make a lot of noise in there."
Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore is pleased with his young lineman but explains why he was redshirted this season.
"He had a great camp, he's a good young player. At this point we've got some guys that's been in the system a little bit longer and understand what we're doing a little bit better. From a physical standpoint, I think he can play."
Teitsma is uncertain of a college major at this time.
"Sports, Recreation and Tourism is what I'm in right now. But I'm not sure. I may want to move over to business or something like that."
If Teitsma's play on the field is as awesome as his personality, Illini coaches and fans will enjoy watching him for four years.