Illini pick up recruiting boost with addition of Juice
The recruiting process isn't a faded memory for Juice Williams.
Good thing, too.
The 26-year-old former Illinois quarterback who led the Illini to their most recent Rose Bowl will find himself firmly entrenched with recruiting in his new job on Tim Beckman's staff.
Tuesday is Williams' first day on Beckman's staff as director of alumni and former players relations.
In essence, his main focus is to manage all functions involving alumni and former players, along with assist on-campus recruiting.
The face of the Illini when Ron Zook was roaming the sidelines will again find himself with the role of representing Illinois.
He just won't throw one of his customary deep balls, take off on a quarterback option run or convince Beckman to go for it on fourth-and-short at Ohio State.
"I feel that I am being able to kind of relate to the student-athlete coming out of high school," said Williams, who was a four-star recruit for Illinois in the Class of 2006. "I know it's not exactly the same because we didn't have social media and all that technology when I was getting recruited, but I'm still familiar with the conversation recruits have and all the on-campus activities that take place during the recruiting process. I'm still able to speak that lingo, and I'm able to understand the 18-to-19-yearold coming out of high school and what I can do to make those guys feel a little bit more comfortable."
Williams said he was first interested in the position when Mike Bellamy had this role for the 2012 season before the former Illinois wide receiver became Beckman's wide receivers coach.
Former Illinois linebacker Matt Sinclair, who had strong ties to the St. Louis area from his high school career at St. Louis University High and to the Chicago area from his days as an assistant coach at Wheaton Warrenville South, had the role during the 2013 season.
He resigned from the position after he was arrested on three counts of aggravated unlawful use of weapons and one count of unlawful use of weapons following a Nov. 23 incident.
"I reached out to Coach Beckman," Williams said. "I was interested in the position when it first came out when Bellamy took it, but the timing was just a little bit off. I thought the next time it came open, I would really pursue it."
Williams was a popular man Monday once news broke late in the afternoon, with former coaches and players reaching out to offer congratulations.
"My phone's been going crazy," he said with a laugh.
Williams looks back on his recruitment when he prepped at Chicago Vocational with positive recollections.
Despite its hectic nature at times.
"I can remember being pulled out of class several times a year to meet with various coaches," he said. "Initially, as a high school, you don't necessarily mind being pulled out of class the first time, but after a while, you start to think, 'Give me a break.' But it was all fun, and I really cherished those moments. There's only one time in your life and with sports where you're getting that much attention. There's a little bit of it during the free agency period in the NFL, but nothing like when you're getting recruited by a college."
Williams said the persistent and honest nature Illinois used during his recruitment helped sway him to choose the in-state school.
It's a pitch he'll try to sell incoming recruits on now.
Recruits who might have watched him during his own college career.
"It doesn't make me feel old, but more honored than anything if they remember me playing," Williams said. "A lot of these guys were in sixth, seventh or eighth grade when I was finishing up at Illinois. The fact that they can remember and appreciated the effort that myself and the guys around me displayed makes me excited to be around them."
We asked staff writer Bob Asmussen for his thoughts on Illinois’ hiring of Juice Williams:
“When he first made a commitment to Illinois in May 2005, Chicago Vocational quarterback Juice Williams became a Pied Piper for Ron Zook’s program. Two years later, Williams led the Illini to a win against No. 1 Ohio State and to the 2008 Rose Bowl. Now, he is back. Tim Beckman made a wise choice hiring Williams to help with recruiting and alumni relations. Williams is one of the most recognizable faces of the program during the past decade. Getting him back makes perfect sense. Current recruits remember Williams during his time as an Illini. He will be a big draw, especially in the Chicago area. And Williams has a positive personality that will fit in well with the Beckman staff.