He’s the run stopper in the middle of a line that was expected to anchor another elite defensive effort, but things haven’t worked out for Akeem Spence and the Illini this season. Despite the team’s struggles, the 300-pound tackle is putting together another impressive campaign and might have a decision to make at the end of the season in regards to the NFL. Today, the fan of Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will get a workout chasing around Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.
How tough has this season been on you? It’s been real tough. We came into the season with a lot of high expectations, being one of the best defenses coming back, and everything that could go wrong went wrong. Guys got hurt; it’s all been bad. There have been some positives.
So, there’s not just one thing you can pinpoint? No, it’s just kind of been a snowball deal.
Who do you turn to when things are tough like they are now? I talk to my roommate, Terry (Hawthorne). I also talk to my dad. He tells me to keep working even though things aren’t going as well as I want them to. I still have to perform because I’m still working on my future. Continue to encourage guys, be a leader and don’t just let it eat at me.
What is your hope for the future? Obviously, I hope to play in the NFL for a few years, and that’s my ultimate goal. I’m still working toward that, still working toward graduating, so I’ve still got to hit the goals in my life, so I’m looking to that.
What’s it like watching a guy like Corey Liuget on TV doing what you want to do and knowing he was in your shoes not too long ago? It’s big. I see him and Martez (Wilson) and seeing those guys just motivates me to keep on going because I lined up with those guys, I sat in the same room with Corey and (Whitney Mercilus), and that’s obviously where I want to get. I come to practice every day and come out on Saturday and play to the best of my ability and hope that’s where it gets me.
What would that mean for you to reach that? It would be a great thing. It would be the pinnacle of my life just getting drafted into the NFL. Football takes you a long way and you get to see lots of the country.
Have you always been one of the bigger guys? Yeah, I’ve always been kind of big. It’s been like that ever since I was younger.
What’s the diet like for a defensive tackle? I try to eat good. I live with a cornerback, so he’s got me eating salads and whatnot. I like Chipotle, so I eat a lot of that when I can.
What do you like to do when you’re not focused on football or school? I’m pretty laid-back. I like to play video games, watch college football and the NFL and just go out around here and have a good time.
Who’s your favorite defensive lineman? Right now, my favorite guy to watch on Sundays is (Ndamukong) Suh. I like the way he plays.
Do you think he gets a bad rap? At times, yeah. To play defensive tackle, you have to be a meaner guy. Ultimately, he’s a great player; I like what he does.
Do you have that nastiness in you? Yeah, you’ve got to have that mean streak in you. I can turn it on.
You and the offensive linemen are hitting each other on every play. How often are you guys talking out there? There are times during the TV timeouts, guys will stand there and talk back and forth. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. It’s football. We talk about our schools, what it’s like there. It’s a lot of random stuff. I’ll tell the quarterbacks I’ll be back after a hit, just talk a little (trash). After the game when it’s wrapped up, we shake hands and wish each other luck and that’s all.