Douglas family back in Illinois spotlight

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It seems like only yesterday that Bruce Douglas was starring at guard for Lou Henson’s University of Illinois basketball team.

Now, the last of his four sons will have the opportunity to make his own name on the football field for the Illini.

Plainfield Central nose tackle Bryce Douglas signed with Illinois on National Letter of Intent signing day Wednesday. He has felt like a member of the Illini family all his life. Now, it’s official.

“It’s a pleasure to have an opportunity to play for the school where my dad and mom (Madge) went, and to keep the legacy going,” the 6-foot-2, 315-pound Douglas said during a ceremony before many of his classmates. “My dad’s jersey is hanging there. It’s just special.”

Douglas, who turned 17 in August and played only basketball and baseball before taking up football in eighth grade, feels he is still learning the game. But he was good enough to be named defensive MVP in the Southwest Prairie Conference last season, when he made the Champaign News-Gazette and Illinois High School Football Coaches Association All-State teams, and may be ready to contribute the Big Ten.

“I had (recruiters) last winter and spring tell me they were concerned with his height,” Plainfield Central coach John Jackson said. “I just said, ‘Watch the films.’ Bryce is a prototypical three-technique tackle. He is big, fast and powerful, the strongest player I ever coached. The biggest thing for a big man is he needs to be in shape. Bryce isn’t going to win any marathons, but he has good muscle endurance.

“If he had four more inches, he absolutely would be unstoppable.”

“I’m 6-2 and feel I have an advantage at that height because I can get better leverage,” said Douglas, a good friend and possible future roommate of another Illini recruit, Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey. “The whole goal every game is to get extension before the other guy extends on me. I feel I can do that.

“Our defensive coordinator (Tim Banks) told me their defensive linemen were gassed last year. They want to utilize impact freshmen who can go 25 or 30 plays a game. I’d like to be one of them.”

Bruce Douglas, a manager at Exelon and a minister, could not be happier.

“Surely this is a great day,” said Bruce, Illinois’ all-time assists and steals leader. “It couldn’t have turned out better for Bryce or me. Our family has a sense of pride in this state, in putting this state on the map.

“Bryce bleeds orange and blue. He has always loved Illinois.”

Bruce is close with Illini basketball coach John Groce and Bryce thinks the world of football coach Tim Beckman, whose first Illinois team finished 2-10.

“Coach Beckman has been like a father to me throughout this recruiting process,” he said. “I believe in him.”

Also signing at Plainfield Central were football wide receiver Duvaun Goodlow with University of Dubuque and women’s cross country runner Nicole Pease with University of St. Francis.

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