Four downs: Former Illini defensive lineman Jason Eberhart

Four downs: Former Illini defensive lineman Jason Eberhart

Illinois football beat writer Bob Asmussen chatted with former Illini defensive lineman Jason Eberhart. The St. Louis native was an important part of the program's turnaround in the late 1990s and was on the field for the last play in the 1999 win at Michigan. Back living in St. Louis, Eberhart works in human resources. He keeps close tabs on his old school, though his Saturdays are kept busy watching another team. His son Antonio followed him into college football and is a standout defensive back at Ball State. Jason and wife Candace have five children: sons Antonio, Jason (15) and Jacob (11) and daughters Z'qureia (17) and Jayia (4).

Michigan is back on the Illinois schedule. What do you think?

It's a good chance for us to show the talent that we've acquired. We've been doing a great job of recruiting, grabbing a lot of St. Louis guys. I think we're in position to make that turnaround this year.

Your team shocked the Greatest Of All Time, Tom Brady. How was that?

It was definitely good to be a part of that whole situation. I root for him. He's my wife's favorite. I tell my wife all the time, "We actually beat Tom Brady." She says, "Whatever, he's still the greatest. I love him." They were great. We played together. We fought hard, we got back and saw we had a chance to win it and we finished. That's what (Ron) Turner talked about back then: Finishing.

Illinois is again recruiting heavily in the St. Louis area. How are you feeling about that?

I'm ecstatic. We have a lot of talent down here. For some reason, it was being overlooked. Now, we're getting the spotlight put back on us. We have a great pool of talent and great group of young kids here. Lovie Smith is doing an awesome job. I love what I see. Lovie is a great guy. The turnaround is not going to be easy, but we're getting some good kids in. All we have to do is coach them up.

How does it make you feel to watch your son playing at a high level?

I'm very excited for Antonio. He's been putting in the work. He's been early for every meeting. He's been doing exceptionally well in the classroom. I'm definitely proud. He's adapting to the game. I expect a big year from him this year. The first game this year is against Indiana at Lucas Oil Stadium. I think he's going to have a chance to play at the next level. He's got the ability. He's definitely got the mindset.