Chesnut the inside man for Illini football |

You think operations personnel operate behind the scenes? The equipment folks fly way under the radar and are pretty much noticed only if something goes wrong. But for programs large and small, nothing could get done if it weren’t for these folks.

by Bob Asmussen

There are lots of jobs on the Illinois campus I would try … for a day.

President? Easy. Raise faculty salaries, lower tuition and give the students a day off for every football win. I expect a residence hall to be named in my honor.

Athletic director? So much fun. Start hockey, pay the players and put Loren Tate in the Athletic Hall of Fame as a contributor.

Basketball coach? Sign me up. Schedule a 10-year home-and-home with Kansas, bring Kansas State to State Farm Center for a game and tell Ayo Dosunmu he is going 40 minutes in the opener.

But there is one person’s job on the Illinois campus I want no part of. Come on down, Trent Chesnut.

The Illinois football manager has been here 19 years — how could it be that long? — and is working with his fifth head coach.

Note that he sticks around when a new coach takes over. Why would you replace someone who knows everything about his business? The answer, unless you are a dope, you wouldn’t,

“We get along with the staff awesome,” Chesnut said. “It’s a great mix of college and NFL guys. They are all very polite and work well with me and my staff and our students. It’s been nothing but positive so far.”

Training camp is Chesnut’s answer to tax season for an accountant. He arrives each day at 6 a.m. and goes home, hopefully, by 10 p.m. That’s 16 hours.

Then, he comes back the next day to do it all over again.

“At camp, you’re looking at 100 hours a week,” Chesnut said. “During the season, it is probably 70 or 80.”

Big bucks, right?

“There’s no overtime involved,” Chesnut said, “You know what you signed up for. But we love the job and love what we’re doing.”Chesnut, 51, is actually in his 29th year in the business. The Hoopeston native got his start on the staff at UNLV. After a few years in Sin City, Chesnut took over as the football equipment manager at Nevada in Reno (Sin City Jr.).

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