Zeph Grimes was happy to receive the Scout Team Defensive Player Award at the annual Illinois football banquet recently.
"I'm pretty excited just to know my hard work has paid off this year."
All freshmen prefer to play as rookies, but Grimes has acclimated well to a redshirt season.
"It's good. It has given me a little time to learn from the older guys what I'm supposed to do."
Two problems required the extra time. One, he came in overweight. He has made a diligent effort to lose the baby fat.
"It's going good. I got down to 205, and I have more muscle, so it's good."
Secondly, he played more as a pass rusher in high school. The SAM linebacker requires pass defense also, so it has taken him awhile to learn the new position.
"Yes sir, it's a big adjustment."
But he can also blitz from that position.
"It's good. It lets me show off some of my abilities to rush passers. I've just learned from the other guys the roles that are right."
Perhaps the biggest adjustment for Grimes is the colder weather.
"I'm still fighting it, but I'm trying my best to get used to it. I'm not there yet."
The Bamberg-Ehrhardt star was recruited by former head coach Ron Zook and assistant Ron West. He says he will miss them, but he has no intention of transferring to another school.
"I came here to play, so that doesn't change."
He can't play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, but he is looking forward to seeing California.
"It's real good. I get to see a new atmosphere, so I'm excited."
Bowls offer certain legal gifts for players on the two competing teams. Grimes is eager to take advantage of the opportunity.
"Yes sir, I need that."
While he hasn't yet had much exposure to new coach Tim Beckman, his first impression is positive.
"He seemed like a cool guy. He's high energy."
Grimes also appears to be doing well in the classroom at Illinois.
"My school work is going real good. I'm working just as hard in classes as I am on the field. I'm undecided right now, but I think I'm gonna major in Sociology."
When football recruits travel long distance to play for the Fighting Illini, there is always a concern homesickness will prevent a proper adjustment to college. That does not appear to be the case for South Carolina SAM linebacker Zeph Grimes. He earned the Scout Team Defensive Player Of The Year Award and is eager to compete for playing time beginning next semester.