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Brandon Lloyd: ‘I always represent my Illinois colors’

Ten years later, Brandon Lloyd still loudly wears the orange and blue.

Sporting an orange tie covered by a blue Illinois pullover embossed with a Chief Illiniwek patch over his right pectoral, Lloyd appeared to be one of the most excited to attend Saturday’s 10-year reunion of the 2001 Big Ten championship Illini football team.

“Even when I still go to the airport, I like to wear some Illinois stuff,” Lloyd said. “I always get an ‘I-L-L’ from out of nowhere and I’m looking around saying, ‘Who said that?’ I always represent my Illinois colors.”

Lloyd was one of an estimated 50 members of the 2001 outright Big Ten champs – the only team not named Michigan or Ohio State to win the conference title outright since 1999 – to participate in this weekend’s activities, including a tour of the football facilities Friday and a golf outing and dinner on Saturday.

“Ten years have gone by but not a lot has changed with guys’ personalities and the way they look and laugh and the way we interact,” Lloyd said. “It’s interesting to see how long we’ve been apart but how close we are when we get back together.”

Lloyd still emits the star quality he displayed during back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for the Illini in 2001 and 2002 before foregoing his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. Entering his ninth season in the NFL, Lloyd is riding the momentum of his best season.

In his second season with the Denver Broncos, he led the NFL with 1,448 yards on 77 catches, grabbing 11 touchdowns. The accolades followed, including Pro-Bowl and second-team All-Pro selections.

“It was very exciting,” Lloyd said. “I think about it a lot and I think about what I can do better going into next season and preparing myself and making sure I’m healthy so that when the season does start I’m able to do my best to do that season over again.”

Last season marked the first time Lloyd had more than 50 catches and 750 yards in the NFL. He showed promise in San Francisco after being drafted in the fourth round by the 49ers, accumulating 1,510 receiving yards in three seasons. But his career cooled down during stops with the Washington Redskins and Chicago Bears.

So what brought about a career year last season? Opportunity and the right people around him, Lloyd said.

“It was (head coach) Josh McDaniels and it was (quarterback) Kyle Orton,” Lloyd said. “Not taking anything away from what I did to prepare myself for that season. But Coach McDaniels believed I was going to make the plays for him and Kyle Orton trusted that I’d be there to make the catches.”

But leading the NFL in receiving didn’t boost his confidence, Lloyd said, because he never lacked in that area.

“If you ask any of these guys, my confidence has always been sky high,” Lloyd guffawed. “I didn’t need that season to be confident! But it definitely gives you more than enough confidence going into the next season.”

For all his love for Illinois, Lloyd chose to leave the university with a year of eligibility remaining to enter the NFL. The Illini went 1-11 in what would have been Lloyd’s senior season as he struggled to earn repetitions in his first season with the 49ers.

So does Lloyd ever regret not spending one more year in the orange and blue?

“No,” Lloyd said. “I think that wasn’t something that I was on the fence about. I knew that was going to be my path and I wasn’t jumping in head first. I knew what I was getting into and I was willing to do the necessary work to make it successful. I’m just continuing to try to make my path work.”

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Categories: Illini, Illinois football
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