The News-Gazette All-State Player of the Year in 2008 has jumped right into college football, at a position other than the one he expected to play. Former East St. Louis star Terry Hawthorne is helping the Illini as a cornerback and on kick returns. His load is much lighter than in high school, when he played offense, defense and all of the special teams. But it's early.
Q: If I had told you in the summer you'd be playing cornerback, what would have been your response?
A: It's good.
Q: Did you think that might happen when you signed?
A: When I came in, they told me it's a possibility that I can do both, but it was up to me, what I could handle.
Q: Any part of you not want to move?
A: They were short a corner. They needed corners, so I did whatever it took for the team.
Q: Are you a permanent cornerback?
A: No. I'm not thinking about what's next. We'll have to see.
Q: Long term, will you do both?
A: Yes sir, it just depends on how much I can handle.
Q: What's your favorite?
A: I like receiver because I have the ball in my hands.
Q: What has been the hardest part of college football for you?
A: Basically, putting in the work at practice. In college, you're going by groups. In high school, we went out as one.
Q: How many games did you lose during your high school career?
Q: How does it feel to have lost five in your first college season?
A: Things happen. We've just got to come together as a team, as a unit.
Q: Do you think you can turn the season around?
A: I can't speak for everybody else, but in my term, I'd say yes.
Q: Has it been frustrating for you?
A: It is.
Q: How does it feel to be returning kicks?
A: It's a lot of fun. I've got to get used to it.
Q: How is it different?
A: In high school, the ball is coming on line drives or it's rolling to you. In high school, you don't have to set up a wedge. In college, by the time you catch the ball, people are almost in your face. You've got to get the wedge set up.
Q: When do you start returning punts?
A: At this moment, I'm not sure. During camp, I was doing it. I haven't been any since camp.
Q: What about college football has been easier than you thought?
A: The travel.
Q: How is school going?
A: It's going well. I'm undecided right now. I'm taking a heavy load. I've got 16 hours.
Q: How often do you get back home?
A: Not much. I've been back once during the off week.
Q: Who attends the game from East St. Louis?
A: My mom, my dad, my brother.
Q: Has your family been able to go to some of the road games?
A: Yes, sir. That's where my friends go, too.
Q: You've got one more game in St. Louis. How do you feel about the Missouri series ending?
A: I wish it was continuing. I really didn't get to play that much this year against Missouri. I would at least like two more games against them.
Q: You could have gone to Oklahoma. But the Sooners are struggling. Does that surprise you?
A: No. When colleges go to the big stage, the next year they fall off a little bit.
Q: Have you talked to Kraig Appleton?
A: Yes. I talk to him every three weeks, texting or calling.
Q: You don't get to play Wisconsin until your junior year. Are you looking forward to seeing him?
A: Yes. I'm covering him.
Q: How are the Flyers doing?
A: They're doing good. They lost the first two on the road.
Q: Do they miss you?
Q: Are they winning another state title?
A: I can't answer that. I'm hoping.
Q: Has your nickname, Black Cat, stuck in college?
A: Yes. Everybody calls me that.
Q: Who calls you Terry?
A: Nobody except for my teachers. I told them "Black Cat" was OK, but they don't feel comfortable calling me that.
Q: What's the best part of college life?
A: I don't do much outside of sit in my room and watch ESPN all day.
Q: The worst?
A: Sleeping on the hard beds in the dorm.
Q: How has the adjustment been for you in the classroom?
A: During the summer, I was in the bridge program. That helps you make the transition from high school to college. That helped me a lot.
Q: Who are smarter, defensive backs or receivers?
A: Defensive backs if you played receiver before. You can tell from how they line up what route they're going to run.
Q: Who are tougher, defensive backs or offensive linemen?
A: Defensive backs. We're more humble.
Q: Who does better with women, defensive backs or linebackers?
A: I'm not sure. I'll say defensive backs.
Q: Who is your favorite guy to line up against in practice?
A: Chris Duvalt. I just talk smack when I'm up against him. It makes us push each other. He's one of the fastest guys on the team.
Q: Did you like playing at Ohio State?
A: It was good. I like how the stadium is closed. You don't get as much wind.
Q: As a group, how do you feel about the freshmen?
A: I feel that we're doing good so far. We're coming in slowly.
Q: Any part of you wish you had redshirted?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What's your favorite part of Champaign-Urbana?
A: Playing football.
Q: In a few questions, I'm going to ask you to tell us something people don't know about you. But first, tell us something people don't know about one of your teammates.
A: Tommie Hopkins eats nasty. We were sitting in the room one day and he started putting chili in his noodles. I was like, "What?"
Q: Who is your favorite female entertainer?
Q: A night on the town with Monica or two interceptions in a win against Purdue?
A: Two interceptions in a win against Purdue.
Q: Tell us something people don't know about you.
A: I can't wear my "Black Cat" handwarmer because it's not Trent (Chesnut) issue. It's back at home. It's the same color.