Steve Kelly previews the Illinois football team's conference season on SportsTalk here.
CHAMPAIGN – He doesn't know his status for the Missouri game. That decision is in someone else's hands.
Josh Brent is just happy to be back with his team. And he's happy that his return for a game is under consideration.
"As far as I know, I'll let Coach (Ron Zook) handle all of that," Brent said. "I haven't really asked him about it, and he hasn't really told me anything. I'm just focused on getting ready going into camp."
The defensive tackle practiced Thursday with his Illinois teammates. It was his first official workout since he was suspended after a DUI arrest in February. Brent spent a month in jail during the summer after entering a guilty plea. It was a time he won't forget.
"The low point was definitely being incarcerated," Brent said. "I think, 'I've hit rock bottom.' You can't get any lower than that, being in the jail cell. That was rock bottom.
"I did a lot of thinking about my actions, alternatives I could have chosen. A lot of thinking on how is this going to affect my life from here on out?"
Zook said he doesn't want to talk about game suspensions for Brent. Not now.
"Let's kind of see how he does," Zook said. "I think he's had a great month and a half. He's been unbelievable around the football team. He's been unbelievable in the workouts. Let see how it goes."
Brent said he views his return to the team as a second chance. One he vows to take advantage of during his final two years at Illinois.
"I've got somewhat of a clean slate," Brent said. "I feel I've got a debt to pay. I sort of owe my community and society a little bit. But I do have a new lease on life."
"Josh knows he made a serious mistake, and he paid the price," Zook said. "He's learned from it. He's tried to do everything he can do to make up for it. Once again, how much more does he have to do? There comes a point in time where you try to help guys. You're not trying to hurt them."
Spending time in jail changed some of Brent's ideas about life.
"You get your freedom back," Brent said. "Eating, sleeping when you want to, watching TV, stepping outside and seeing the sun, things like that, that you take for granted every day. Once you get back, you sort of realize how much they mean to you."
Because of the suspension, Brent wasn't allowed to practice during the spring. He frequently visited during the workouts, watching from the stands.
"It was very hard, sitting out there in the stands," Brent said. "It was kind of frustrating being somewhat of a key part of this team and a starting defensive lineman. We struggled a little bit. We had some younger guys step up and help fill the void."
While in jail, Brent said he had support from family members and friends. He received letters and had two visitors per week, including the Illinois coaches, former defensive line coach Tom Sims and teammates Michael Hoomanawanui and Martez Wilson.
"I did a lot of praying while I was in there," Brent said.
Some of the other inmates helped, Brent said.
"They were very supportive," Brent said. "They sort of knew who I was and helped me through it."
Brent considers himself fortunate that his arrest didn't include an accident. Or another driver.
"It definitely could have been worse," Brent said. "I could have been dead. Somebody else could have died. But it wasn't worse. Thankfully it wasn't. I don't regret it. It's a mistake that I think was needed in order for me to open my eyes and realize the path I was taking for my life. I'm straightening out now."