Bob Asmussen's chat with Juice WIlliams
As a freshman, you wondered if he would ever complete 50 percent of his passes. As a sophomore, you wondered if he would hold onto his job. Today, you wonder if he can win the Heisman Trophy. Juice Williams has grown into the kind of quarterback the Illinois coaches promised he would be. He is the face of the program and the unquestioned leader of one of the offense.
Q: Two years ago, when you first started, how many people would have thought you'd be No. 8 and No. 10 nationally in total offense and passing efficiency?
A: Probably zero to none.
Q: How about you?
A: Me, no I didn't think so. Freshman year, I was like, "Man, I cannot play quarterback." Sometimes, I was like, "I need to play running back or tight end." I stuck with it.
Q: Did you ever have that change positions conversation with friends or coaches?
A: No. It was more like joking.
Q: Could you play running back?
A: I think I would be a pretty good running back. That's not what I believe I was born to do. I was born to play quarterback. I've been playing quarterback since I was 9 or 10 years old.
Q: How do you feel when you prove people wrong?
A: Any time you prove to people that you can do something when everyone else is saying you're not, it's a great feeling. It's a feeling that you've conquered something that most people thought you couldn't do. It makes you feel proud to be a football player.
Q: When did you first think you could succeed at a high level?
A: Probably the offseason between my freshman and sophomore year. I started hitting more and more passes. The ball started rolling ever since then. Of course, I had some bumps and bruises last year when that question popped back up. But for the most part, I believed that I could do it.
Q: Your family has been a great support system. What have they meant to you during the good times and the bad?
A: They've meant the world. Any time your family is going to be with you regardless of what you do on the football field that says a lot about the family and the integrity of the family. Just having those guys on my side through the good and the bad, it really shows the love they have for me and how much football is not that much of a factor in our relationship.
Q: Team Juice has been getting a lot of air time.
A: Well, my family is very outspoken. They like to have fun, whether there's a camera around or not.
Q: You are playing Wisconsin on Saturday. What's your favorite kind of cheese?
A: American cheese. I eat it on cheeseburgers, hotdogs, cheese fries.
Q: Are you tired?
A: Overall, I'm not tired. I think I'm doing pretty good. My freshman year, however, that was the first time I played 12 games in one season. So, I was pretty fatigued then.
Q: Do you wish there was another off week?
A: Yes. I'd say after this game. We'd be 75 percent of the way through. It would be beautiful.
Q: Is your daughter starting to figure out that Daddy is a big deal?
A: Now she's to the point where if she sees me on TV, she goes and pats the screen. That's very fun to watch. That's exciting. That's got a bring a smile to you.
Q: What are you going to do when she's 16 and the little Juice Williams' are coming over to ask her out?
A: Not happening. I'm saying that now. I don't know what to expect. Hopefully, I'll be able to take care of that matter in an orderly fashion. Hopefully, I don't get too outraged and get ready to punch someone.
Q: Are you a stern disciplinarian or spoil her rotten kind of parent?
A: I'm stern. That's how I was brought up. At this age right now, she's only 1 so there's a lot she doesn't know. In the next year, I'll be more of a disciplinarian.
Q: What will you say if she wants to play football?
A: It's her decision, if she wants to play football, I'm all for it. I'd probably prefer tennis or golf or something, but if she wants to play football, she can go ahead. She can play quarterback if she wants to.
Q: It sure seems like Brit Miller is getting a lot of air time on "The Journey."
A: I think he gets a kick out of it. He's a funny guy. He likes to be in the spotlight all the time. Whenever he has an opportunity to go out there and be in front of the cameras, he's going to do it.
Q: What do you think of the show?
A: I love it. You can't really be selfish and only think about what it does to the team right now. Ten years from now, you'll be able to sit back and look at it and reflect on the things that happened this year. A lot of guys, seeing themselves on TV, their families get a kick out of it. I know my parents, my family members and friends, they loving watching "The Journey." They love seeing what's going on in the locker room. They call me, text me, say this was funny, that was funny.
Q: The election is coming up in a couple of weeks. Are you voting?
A: I will be voting.
Q: Which are your teammates would make the best president?
A: Ryan McDonald. He's a smart guy. I'm pretty sure if he doesn't know about something, he'll find out.
Q: Arrelious Benn is the first Illinois receiver ever with four 100-yard games in a row. Do you tease him that he's not getting the ball against Wisconsin?
A: No, I'm not going to tease him. Even if I did, it's not going to do anything to him. He's just going to smile at me and say, "Whatever. You've got to throw me the ball." It's very fun to see him not even grow up in front of my eyes because he was a man walking in here, but to see him going out there and being successful. It's a blessing to be a part of it.
Q: A quarterback can't be a success without great players around him. How important has Benn been?
A: Very important. He's real reliable. You can throw the ball out in space and let him make plays.
Q: Rashard Mendenhall was the Big Ten MVP last year. Would you like to make it two in a row for Illinois?
A: That would be huge. Somebody brought it to my attention that if they had to vote today, a bunch of people would probably vote for me. That was exciting to hear.
Q: Give me your favorite moment so far at Illinois.
A: Fourth and 1 against Ohio State. The fact that Coach (Ron) Zook went for that with his job, his career, his image on the line, and he really trusted me and the faith in me to get that 1 yards, that was huge.
Q: The guys in front of you on the Illinois career total offense list are Kurt Kittner, Jack Trudeau, Jason Verduzco and Tony Eason. How does it feel to be with that group?
A: It makes me glow on the inside. It's stuff that you really look at after the season. I see it here and there. It's almost like a dream come true because I never thought I'd be able to even be close to those guys. Especially being a junior with another season to play.
Q: Would you someday like to be known as the greatest quarterback in Illinois history?
A: The greatest quarterback at any university would be cool. Especially Illinois with so much tradition. You've got a great line of quarterbacks that have come through here: Jeff George, Kurt Kittner, Jack Trudeau, all those guys. To be the greatest of all of those that would leave me speechless.
Q: You are setting yourself up for a Heisman run next season. Do you like the idea?
A: I love it. It's something that family and friends really get a kick out of. It's awarded to the best player in college football. To be in the same sentence as some of those others guys, it really lets you know what type of player you are and what other people think about you.
Q: If Illinois wants to do a special promotion for you, what should it send to voters?
A: I think everybody would like to see the Bobblehead Juice. I get a lot of jokes about my head. It would be a little bit bigger than normal.
Q: Rays or Phillies?
Q: What did you think when you saw Josh Brent in the backfield?
A: It looked funny. You've got two regular running backs behind you. Then you look to your left and you see this 300-pound massive dude behind you ready to knock somebody out.
Q: Does he have hands?
A: I saw Eddie (McGee) throw to him one time and he caught it easily. If Josh is open, I'm going to throw him the ball. I'm going to throw him a catchable ball. He better catch it.
Q: Who is your favorite female entertainer?
A: Meagan Good. I love watching her movies.
Q: A night on the town with Meagan Good or four touchdown passes in a win against Wisconsin?
A: Four touchdowns and a win against Wisconsin. No question.
Q: Tell us something people don't know about you.
A: When I'm putting my pads in my pants, I put my left thigh pad in upright, the way it's supposed to go, but I put my right thigh pad in upside down. For some reason, I don't know why I do it, but I just do it. There's no danger. I started doing it the last week of Rantoul. I do it intentionally now.