New Illinois head coach Bret Bielema is no stranger to media days, and after a nine-year absence from the conference, he took to the microphone today at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to field some questions.

Of the many comments from the day, one, in particular, seemed to stand out. Intertwined with the usuals questions and answers about players, coaches, opponents, and the team, a throwback to Bielema’s college days found its way to the pressroom.

“I got a Tigerhawk tattoo when I was 19. It was a great idea then, not so much now,” said Bielema with a chuckle. “I think it’s important to realize that, that is a big part of where I am today.”

“I always tell our players, we all come from different parts of the country, different homes, different backgrounds, different religions, different communities,” he added. “It’s important to know that you’re here because of that and that’s what made you who you are today.”

Bielema comes to Illinois after having led Wisconsin to three-straight Big Ten titles from 2010-12. Having coached some of the best players in the country during that Badger run, he found his way to the NFL on the staff of the New England Patriots.

His message seems to be working as part of his recruiting effort. Bielema and the Illini will be welcoming five top 1000 recruits, and with the success, he has the Orange and Blue on a path to have a Top-40 recruiting class — something that Champaign hasn’t seen in over a decade.