The former Illinois offensive lineman played 48 games over the last four seasons
After playing in 48 college games over the last four years — and winning just 16 of them — Christian DiLauro could be forgiven if he looked at football the way a toddler looks at broccoli.
Instead, he wants another helping.
That’s why the Green High graduate has spent the last two months training in New Castle, Pa., waking up early every morning in hopes of acing the biggest final of his college career: Monday's Illinois’ NFL pro day.
“It (football) doesn’t get old,” said DiLauro, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive tackle. “It definitely isn’t easy and unfortunately we didn’t have as many winning seasons as I would have liked. But at the end of the day, it’s one of those things where you either love it or hate it. I love it.”
DiLauro was a standout tight end and defensive lineman for the Bulldogs before enrolling early at Illinois in the spring of 2013. He redshirted that fall, got switched to offensive tackle and made ESPN.com’s Big Ten All-Freshman Team in 2014.
Over his four-year career, he started 37 games at tackle and one at guard for the Illini, who had three head coaches and just one bowl game appearance over that span. His last two seasons, Illinois went 2-10 (2017) and 3-9 (2016), both under former Bears coach Lovie Smith.
“It’s true we didn’t have any winning seasons, but sometimes you can learn more in losses than you can in your wins,” DiLauro said. “The film days weren’t much fun — nobody likes to lose — but you see what’s working, what isn’t working and you tell yourself, ‘I really need to focus on this technique and get this down’ so you can progress throughout your time there.”
DiLauro didn’t get invited to this year's NFL combine, so Monday's pro day is his best chance to show scouts that he deserves to either get drafted or signed as a free agent in late April. (His NFL.com scouting report projects him as a seventh-rounder or a free agent.)
“My big thing is showing them (NFL scouts) I have the strength,” said DiLauro, who has spent a lot of time on the bench press over the last two months. “At the same time, I want to show them I have explosiveness and quickness throughout the drills. I want to show them I’m a big, athletic lineman that can play multiple positions. I had to do it at Illinois and I can be a utility guy, filling in every wherever they put me.”
DiLauro earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural and consumer economics in December of 2016 — it’s essentially a regular accounting degree, but because of the way Illinois separates its colleges, he had to take two agricultural classes that he calls “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life” — but for now, his only thing he’s adding up is his reps at Grossetti Performance.
“I’ve been here for two months and I’m definitely enjoying it,” he said. “The big thing is, you go work out in the morning and then there’s a big down time afterward. There’s not much else to do, so you have to keep your sanity by finding things to do.”
One of those things is writing a weekly blog for The News-Gazette, a newspaper in Champaign, Ill. (You can read the whole series at IlliniHQ.com.)
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “Usually what happens is they send a couple questions to talk about for that week and I put something together, then they’ll take what I send and make me sound smart.
“For the most part, it’s all me. But they just make it all flow together.”
The NFL Draft will be held April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. If all goes as planned, DiLauro will end that weekend with the chance of becoming the first Green Bulldog to make it in the NFL.
“If you keep going at it (football), you have to really care about it,” DiLauro said. “Because if you don’t love the sport, there’s no way you’re going to make it five years or four years or however long you’re there in college.
“I just want the chance to keep going.”
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