'Great senior season' at Illinois is Hinsdale Central grad Kramer's goal
Doug Kramer hasn't thought much about where he'll be a year from now.
Plenty of others are doing that for him.
For now Kramer is simply focused on where he plans to be on Monday, back in Champaign to prepare for his senior season on the University of Illinois football team.
Look at any list of the nation's top college interior offensive linemen, and you'll likely see the 2016 Hinsdale Central graduate's name. The center is poised to be the strength of the Illini team strength among four returning starters on the line.
"Obviously I do have goals, and that's what drives me every single day," Kramer said. "But it's more of a day-to-day kind of grind and not looking too far in the future. I want to be a great player at this position, and I've worked hard to look forward to a great senior season."
A year ago Kramer was named to the Rimington Trophy preseason watch list honoring the top college centers. After earning all-Big Ten honorable mention honors as a junior, he'll no doubt return to the list heading into this season.
Kramer, who redshirted his first year at Illinois after being named the West Suburban Silver Conference offensive lineman of the year his senior season at Hinsdale Central, had a streak of 27 straight starts snapped after he suffered a mild knee injury in last year's regular-season finale.
The injury forced him to miss the Redbox Bowl but he's now healthy for his first return to campus since it shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I spent a lot of time rehabbing and getting back but going into spring ball I started to feel 100 percent," he said. "It was a couple months of rehab but I'm ready to get going again. Not being able to play that last game really ate away at me."
Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman recently announced that student athletes could begin returning to campus in staggered numbers starting this week. A detailed return plan includes extensive COVID-19 testing, sanitizing of equipment and facilities, volunteer workouts and no actual use of a football for a couple of weeks.
University officials haven't made a decision on in-person instruction in the fall, but Kramer is hoping for whatever safely allows him to return to playing again.
"One of the biggest things they've talked about is safety is critical," he said. "I trust the people at the University of Illinois, our athletic director and our training staff. I'm definitely not too nervous about returning. Whatever guidelines they need us to follow, we'll figure it out and adapt."
There's a lot on the line for Kramer this season. ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. lists Kramer as the No. 5 center on his initial ranking of the class of 2021 draftees.
Pro Football Focus graded Kramer as the sixth-best college center last season and the third-best among Power Five conferences.
Assuming he performs as expected, he'll be on a path to join fellow Hinsdale Central graduate and current Los Angeles Rams center Brian Allen in the NFL.
Not that he's looking that far ahead.
He's perfectly happy just getting back to business with the Illini.
"I'm definitely excited about seeing all my teammates," Kramer said. "I know what kind of work I've been putting in and the kind of work I'll continue to put in. It's cool to see your name on those lists but there's still a lot to work on."