Moving the Chains with . . . Illinois State center Drew Bones
today at 5:30 am
Drew Bones’s season has paralleled that of Illinois State football. There have been nagging injuries along with the high of knocking off a nationally ranked team coupled with the low of letting a big lead disappear in a loss to a bitter rival.
“Small, little injuries here and there,” Bones said. “It’s difficult. I never really feel like I’m hitting 100 percent healthy.”
Yet through it all, Bones has forged onward. The 6-foot-4, 350-pound offensive lineman has kept his eyes on the prizes ahead of him — whether that be the upcoming final game in ISU’s season, his return to his home state for the holidays, the upcoming winter workouts followed by his senior season or the start of his work career once college life ends.
“You just keep your head down and keep working through it, and I’ll come out on top,” he said of his philosophy that holds true whether it’s football or even the fast-approaching Thanksgiving meal.
Get to know Illinois State center Drew Bones in our Prairie State Pigskin Moving the Chains Q&A.
Hometown: Ottawa, Kan.
High School: Ottawa
Two weeks ago Illinois State upset then-No. 13 Northern Iowa. Is that the most satisfying win this fall?
I’d say so. We knew we were coming off a really bad loss (to Western Illinois). We knew we wanted to get back to winning at home. Coach (Brock) Spack said we want to start winning at home. We want to win our home games. We want to be the team that wins its home games; we want to be the team that no one comes in here and beats us at home.
We knew (Northern Iowa) was going to be a tough, hard-nosed game and it was. In the end, we came out on top (17-10 in overtime). It was awesome and it was fun.
You mentioned the really bad loss to Western Illinois. What was the most frustrating game to lose this season?
It definitely was. We let it fall right through our fingers. We felt we had the game in the bag (leading 28-13 late in the third quarter) and for whatever reason, just let it go (losing 38-31). It was definitely that one.
You played three sports in high school. Did you have a favorite?
I played football, basketball and baseball. Football was my favorite, but baseball was a close second. I always loved baseball. Originally, when I first got to high school I wanted to play college baseball. But, for whatever reason, that kind of went away toward the end of my high school career.
I always loved football and had a dream of playing in the NFL.
What positions did you play in baseball?
I played third base and third base. My senior year we actually got second in the state (tournament). I remember that whole state run in the playoffs. Those were really fun games.
You’ve also played multiple positions at Illinois State. For those who think offensive line play is all the same, what are the differences between playing center and playing guard?
Center comes with a lot more responsibilities. You have to make sure everyone aligns on the same page. You have to make sure people know where they’re going on plays. Up front you have to call out (defensive) IDs. A lot more is on the play of the center.
When you’re at guard, at least from my experience, it’s a lot more carefree. You go out there and play. You listen to what the center says and go out and then you do it.
What area of your game has improved the most since you’ve been at Illinois State?
Pass protection for sure. Coming from a smaller high school, we didn’t pass the ball that often. It was more run-heavy.
Certainly my run blocking has gotten better since I’ve been here, but my pass blocking has been a major improvement. Even in just the first year I was here my pass blocking went up an incredible amount.
ISU has seen quite a turnover on its roster in the past year for a variety of reasons. Is there a guy you still keep in touch with?
Drew Himmelman. He left because it was the right time for him (to sign as a free agent with the NFL’s Denver Broncos). He’s on the practice squad right now.
Outside of football, what’s your favorite sport at Illinois State to follow?
Men’s basketball. They usually have really good seasons. Everyone in athletics becomes friends. We see each other in the weight room. We congratulate each other when there are wins and things like that.
If you could go to any sporting event in your life where someone hands you prime tickets, where are you going?
I’m definitely going to a Super Bowl and hopefully it’s the (Kansas City) Chiefs.
In your time playing in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, who is the toughest player you’ve gone against head-to-head?
We just played. It’s No. 44 for UNI, Jared Brinkman. He’s a really good defensive lineman. He’s underrated. That man has it all; he’s really good. He’s so strong. It’s hard to move him on blocks. He sits on double-teams and just sticks there like a rock. It’s strength and then he’s sneaky smart with his pass rush as well. Once he feels you’re leaning on him when he’s doing his bull rush, he converts right to a swim (move) or push-pull or something like that. He’s really smart with his pass rush.
What’s your major and what do you wish to do with it in the future?
I’m a physical education major with a health endorsement. I’m also working on two minors, an athletic coaching minor and a health and wellness coaching minor.
I’d like to teach high school PE and health, and I’d like to coach not just football but also baseball and basketball too.
You’re the middle child of five. What’s that like?
It’s great. I kind of got to live this double life as a middle child. My dad had two kids and then got divorced and married my mom, so I have my older brother and sister. Technically, they’re my half-brother and half-sister, but I call them my brother and sister.
Then, I’m the older brother to my two younger brothers. It’s a cool little experience. I get to live the best of both worlds. Some middle children say they don’t get much attention, but I don’t say that at all.
Thanksgiving is coming up. What’s something you’re thankful for?
Definitely my family. I’m always thankful for them. I was talking to my parents last week. They were saying they’ve made the seven-and-a half-hour road trip to see games or just to see me over 30 times. I’m definitely always thankful for them.
When you think about the Thanksgiving meal back home, what comes to mind? What are you reaching for first?
Turkey is always the main thing on Thanksgiving, but I’m a ham guy. Ham is the No. 1 thing for me. Then there’s dessert. All the pies — pumpkin, German chocolate, pecan — all that.
When many people think of the holidays, they also think of going to a movie. What’s the last film you saw in a theater?
It was pre-Covid. I haven’t been since. I want to say it was a Marvel movie, but I’m not even sure which one. It was definitely pre-Covid, it’s been awhile. With everything going on with football, there’s not really much time for that, but it’s something I look forward to again.