Trulon Henry takes things seriously these days. He made a mistake, spent more than four years in penitentiary plus another year and a half in junior college preparing for a chance to play major college football. Now on the Illinois campus and taking classes, Henry has needed time to adjust.
"My first class was huge. I couldn't imagine. I felt lost in there. It was Sociology, Statistics. I'm used to it now."
He also had to get used to new teammates and coaches.
"The first day of the meeting with Coach Vic (Koenning, defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach), I sat in Miami Thomas's chair. I didn't know, I just picked a chair.
"After the meeting, Miami got up to talk to the team. He said, 'First of all, Trulon, you sat in my chair. I didn't want to say anything because I respect my elders.' So okay, first low blow. But I kind of had chemistry with the team already."
Conditioning workouts began immediately, and these were more strenuous than junior college also.
"It's more intense. More sweat, more weight. They really pay attention to what's going on with you. You've got to weigh in every day. Every day you've got to take your vitamins.
"They're really into you more, which is a good thing because I think I can do a lot more if I'm in better shape. Coach Lou (Hernandez) is good at what he does."
When he reported, he looked more like a linebacker.
"I'm still a safety. I reported at 230, but I'm coming down a little bit. I'm at 220 now. At my juco, we didn't have a bowl game so I had been sitting. Coach Zook didn't say it was a problem. We'll see in running and conditioning how I move with it. That's all that matters."
Henry has needed to adjust without his family by his side.
"My wife and daughter had to go back to D.C. I couldn't find a one-bedroom (apartment). I didn't want to deal with a roommate with my family. But next semester I'm gonna bring them up."
In their absence, he is relegated to rooming with a senior receiver. Normally, receivers and defensive backs aren't always the best of friends.
"Right now, I'm rooming with Jarred Fayson. He's gonna have his days, I'm gonna have my days. We go at it in the house on video games."
Henry wants to make a name for himself and not just be known as Arrelious Benn's older brother. But fate took an ironic twist, giving him Benn's old jersey number.
"I wanted a single digit number. I wore 6 in junior college, but that was taken by two people. So that left 1, 4, 7 and 9. I couldn't take 4 because that was Donsay's (Hardeman) number. We have the same kind of hair and play the same position. So that wouldn't be good.
"I would never wear (the number) one because it just means too much. It's a statement behind one. And then the quarterback (Chandler Whitmer) wanted 7, so that left #9. It's not 6, but it's all right."
It has helped to talk with his brother about his college experiences.
"His relationship with the coaches moreso than what he's done on the field. Football is football wherever you go. But the family atmosphere, I know what kind of guys I'm dealing with. That means a lot."
Benn is preparing for the NFL draft, but he still takes a strong interest in Henry.
"Rejus is in California preparing for the combine. We talk all the time. He's so into what's happening here and with me. He asks about class, telling me he heard the forecast for cold weather.
"He's just laughing at me man. When I watched him doing all these things, I kept thinking I can be successful too. We come from the same place. We drank the same milk."
While the two brothers have a lot in common, Henry wants to be his own person.
"My brother and I have the same sort of body, we may tell similar jokes, but we're two totally different people. On the field, you'll probably find me more aggressive than he is. You might find he does some other things better. We play two totally different positions. I'm not him, and he's not me. He can't hit nobody as hard as I can, and I can't score a touchdown as fast as he can."
Henry is proud of what he's accomplished since regaining his freedom, but he wants to do much more. Because he's older than the typical college student, his time is getting short.
"I was two-time team captain (at College Of Dupage). I also was conference defensive MVP, MVP of the team. I had a 3.4 GPA. I got an academic award as well because I graduated in three semesters instead of four. It was the first time someone on the team did that.
"I can't waste time. I have to take everything seriously, school included. In high school, I wasn't that good of a student. But now it's totally different. Everything's a rush now."
Henry is eager to learn the defense, but he's had to adapt to his coaches' time table.
"I've been texting Coach Vic, Coach (Dan) Disch. They tell you just to be patient. They've been out recruiting, and you want to look at film, look at the new defense. I'm a video freak, I love watching film. I think I can cheat if I really watch film correctly. I feel like I always need the upper hand. But Coach said he's gonna put everything down when he's done recruiting."
Henry is already thinking about the potential of his new team. He is eager to see the product on the field.
"I was talking to Miami Thomas the other day in the sauna about the season coming up. To be honest with you, in the weight room we have so much potential. There's so much going on on our defense as far as individual talent. I know Coach is gonna be good enough to put it all together.
"It's gonna be big. The rotation at each position is gonna be crazy. Three, four, five safeties who can play. Five defensive ends. It's not just one guy. There's a lot of people who can play on this team."
The mature Henry is majoring in Sociology and wants to get a Master's in Sports Management. He is grateful for the new start he's received since prison, and he wants to keep going upward and onward. While he hopes to excel on the field and help the Illini win games, he also believes his background and experiences can help his teammates.
"The new start started in junior college. This is the next step up. I'm working hard, busting my butt. Mostly what I have to offer is, I can touch the whole team. You can't really pay for that."