Former trainer in charge of getting Illini to Southern California
The job requirements for director of football operations Adrian Melendez changed from making quick decisions on the field to making decisions that help the Illinois football team get on the field.
After moving from head athletic trainer to his new post this season, Melendez is in charge of moving Illinois' small army of players, coaches, support staff and some family members from campus to Los Angeles. The Illini play Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.
"It's just different,'' Melendez said. "I did athletic training for nine years. This part (on the operational staff) everyone says should be more stressful, but being in athletic training is stressful by making sure guys are healthy or staying on the field.
"When you run out on the field, you don't know what's wrong (with the injured player). You have to figure it out. There are a lot of responsibilities from the coaches to the parents to the players. Now I just have to worry about getting them places and they have food. That's a lot easier.''
The Illini must deal with traffic while traveling from their team hotel to the assigned practice facility at the Home Depot Center in Carson. Illinois also has daily events scheduled each evening and a regular news conferences.
According to the travel itinerary, the Illini team charter left Willard Airport in Savoy for a nonstop flight to Los Angeles. The team has a welcome reception at Disneyland today.
About 30 players were flying directly from their homes to Los Angeles, since the Illini were off for a four-day Christmas break before leaving for the West Coast on Tuesday.
The Home Depot Center is a multi-sport complex highlighted by a 27,000-seat soccer stadium that's home to David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Illinois has two football fields for its practices, which are closed to the public.
The Illini semi-trailer was set to leave over the weekend, hauling Illinois' equipment. Melendez leased weights for use during the week.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. For more coverage, reach Illini Talk blog at www.sj-r.com and www.pjstar.com.