Miles Osei came to Illinois with the intentions of playing quarterback. Along with throwing touchdown passes and getting recognized often on campus. But the Mount Prospect native, who will make a return to Cook County this weekend when Illinois plays Washington at Soldier Field, shifted to wide receiver halfway through last season and is now firmly entrenched at the position. Fine by the soft-spoken senior, who doesn’t mind not having the spotlight shone on him. But before Osei, who also is proving quite capable as a return man for the Illini, steps out on the Soldier Field grass, he offered up his take on the Chicago sports scene, the move from quarterback to wideout and where he tells people he’s from.
What do you think playing at Soldier Field will be like?
It’s going to be awesome. I’ve never been to a professional football game. I’ve seen Soldier Field from the outside hundreds of times. It will be awesome being in Chicago playing a great team. It will be a great experience.
What do you think of the renovations done to Soldier Field since the last time Illinois played there in 1994?
I didn’t really pay attention, so I wouldn’t know the difference between what they have now and what they didn’t have.
How are you handling your final season?
I think this year more than any year I’m looking around and soaking things in. Whether it’s the fans in the stands or just seeing how my teammates react to plays. I’m trying to take in the little things since this is my last year. I’ll never have this experience again.
Who’s your favorite Bears player?
I would say Devin Hester just because he’s so fast. I think at any moment he can make a big play, and that’s exciting. Having a player like that is exciting to the game.
Who first brought the idea to move you from quarterback to wide receiver?
I believe it was Coach (Chris) Beatty last season. I love Coach Beatty to death. He’s been nothing but supportive and a great coach and influence in my life. I was down for switching. It was kind of difficult just because it was in the middle of the season and you had to play catch-up. Coach (Mike) Bellamy helped me out a lot, and Coach (Billy) Gonzales did a great job with me, too, trying to teach me the fundamentals and the little techniques. This year has been a lot easier because you know going into the season what position you’re going to be playing. I’m able to focus on that. Playing quarterback has done nothing but help me become a better wide receiver.
What was the hardest part of the transition?
I would say the uncertainty of each week of knowing exactly what position you’d be needed at that game. This year, I know what is expected of me. I understand that, and I’m able to embrace that.
What’s been the difference on the punt returns so far this year?
I think having two guys back there is a big difference. You have a trust that even if you see one guy coming, the other guy is going to get them. Me and V’Angelo (Bentley) and the other punt return guys do such a good job of hustling and getting in front of guys to do a good job blocking. Having V’Angelo back there is a big trust factor. It’s awesome.
How did you envision your Illinois career unfolding when you arrived here out of high school?
Every freshman that comes in envisions playing right away, starting and being the guy like they were in high school. Then reality sets in where you’re not the guy. Everyone was the guy at their high school. You have to go back to working as hard as you can. I didn’t really know the first couple years what I was going to do or what I was going to be playing. You just put your head down, keep on listening to what the coaches are telling you to do and do it as hard as you can. I’m just happy to end up as a senior about to graduate and playing with a great group of guys and friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life.
You originally committed to Northern Illinois. What was it like seeing the Huskies play in the Orange Bowl last season?
It was awesome just because they took that program from the bottom to the top in a hurry. I still love Northern and what they do there. All those guys are hardworking guys, and all the coaches that have gone through there have been great coaches. I was proud to see them in the Orange Bowl. I think a lot of other teams that were smaller teams were excited to see them, too. At the same time, too, you’re sitting back thinking, ‘Man, we need to be in a bowl game.’ You get that motor going trying to get to that bowl game for your last year.
How do you stay grounded after the big win against Cincinnati?
I haven’t gotten one pat on the back. I don’t think anyone knows who I am, which I like. For the guys that do, just humbling yourself is easy knowing that Washington is such a great opponent and knowing that you want to go out there and do your best. They’re in the way of our goal. This is only our first two games. It’s not like it’s been 11 or 12 games. We’ve faced great opponents our first two games, but that’s behind us now.
Cubs or White Sox?
White Sox. I’ll never be a Cubs fan. I feel like Cubs fans just go to the games and don’t even watch the game. They’ll go there and just know their team is going to lose. It frustrates me that every year Cubs fans think it’s their year.
Is it difficult being a White Sox fan this year?
Yeah. I don’t really talk about it too much in the locker room. But the Cubs are just as bad, so that helps.
Did you jump on the Blackhawks’ bandwagon this summer?
Of course. I’m not really a big hockey guy at all. I don’t think I’ve ever watched one full game, even though I’ve been to a couple games, which are exciting. When they were winning, I hopped right on; I’m not going to lie.
When people ask where you’re from, do you say Chicago or Mount Prospect?
I say Mount Prospect. I don’t understand why people (from the suburbs) say Chicago. (Illinois wide receiver) Les Poole is from right where I’m from, and he always says Chicago to people. I always happen to be around when he does that, and I have to call him out, like, “No, you’re not. You’re not from Chicago.” I’ll say it to out-of-state guys who don’t really know where Mount Prospect is, but if they say they’re from Illinois, I’ll say I’m from Mount Prospect.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I’m real quiet when I first meet people. I’ll never be the first one to tell them who I am. I usually like to see what people are about before I get to know them. I like to play video games a lot. I definitely do. We had an NBA 2K13 tournament this summer, so everyone knows. Chris Boles always thinks he’s better than me in 2K, and Jon Davis always thinks he’s better than me in NCAA Football, but I made him quit the last two games. I like to compete at anything, and that’s something a lot of guys like to do.
You graduate in the spring. What are your future plans?
Hopefully coach. I always joke around with my high school coaches about coaching against them. I would love to coach underneath them, whether it’s with my old high school coach, Coach (Brent) Pearlman, or my old offensive coordinator in high school, Coach (Mike) Sebestyen. It’d be nothing but smiles from me if I were to coach underneath them coming out of college.
Who’s your dream date besides your girlfriend?
A night on the town with Scarlett Johansson or four touchdowns against Washington?
A win against Washington would be the best.