Luke Butkus' voice filled with excitement with the talk of football practice beginning and the University of Illinois football team getting ready for "Camp Rantoul."
Butkus is in his first year as the Fighting Illini's offensive line coach under new coach Tim Beckman.
To say football is in Butkus' South Side blood is an understatement. His uncle, Dick, was the greatest linebacker of all time and his dad, Ron, attended Illinois and played for the Chicago Cardinals.
His cousin, Mark, starred for Illinois in the early 1980s and his nephew, Don, is a senior quarterback at Mount Carmel High School. He, his uncle Dick and Mark all led Illinois to Big Ten titles during their respective careers. Dick and Mark played in the Rose Bowl. Luke's team played in the Sugar Bowl as the Rose Bowl was host to the BCS title game for the 2001 season.
Luke, a Bloom Trail High School grad, was an All-American at Illinois.
"Camp Rantoul, definitely I am excited about it and it can't get any better," Butkus said. "It brings back memories and the older you get, the better you were."
The Fighting Illini are hoping to improve after a fast start in 2001, but they finished 7-6 under Ron Zook.
"We really were not that bad last year and we have some good kids coming back," Butkus said. "We want to make it so that Illinois kids come to (the University of) Illinois. Stay home. That's what I did and I loved every minute of my experience here and I am glad to be back.
"When my uncle, my cousin and me payed here, they were not that good, but in four years, the coaches built a strong program and I think we can do that here. Like I said, Illinois wasn't 1-1 last year. It was not a bad team."
He said having 'Butkus' as a last name was not a hindrance, but it made him work harder to carry on the name.
"I guess maybe when I was younger playing (for St. Agnes grammar school), it was like having an 'X' on my back," Butkus said. "I also wish I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if I was related to Dick Butkus. I would have a lot of money."
At Bloom Township, Butkus was part of the beginning of the co-op between Bloom and Bloom Trail high schools. The Blazing Trojans were 0-9 in each of Butkus' junior and senior years, but he still made the Illinois Football Coaches Association's all-state team and was a SICA East first-teamer as well as a Times first-team selection.
"It was rough to not win a game," Butkus said. "People said: 'Why don't you go somewhere else?' I could have gone to Mount Carmel or Marian, but I loved playing with the guys I grew up with."