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The Thursday evening text message inquired about the possibility of a Friday phone interview.

Knowing the text's recipient, a positive response just minutes later was no surprise. "Sure. Either around 8 a.m, your time or later in the evening," it read.

The "your time" seized the eye. Well aware Colton Underwood is now a member of the Oakland Raiders and was likely on the West Coast, 8 for me meant 6 in the blessed a.m. for Colton.

Placing the call at exactly 8 a.m., a chipper Underwood quickly answered. When asked about the early hour, he responded, "not enough hours in the day."

Colton Underwood has a full schedule, but there are zero complaints. From trying to win a spot on the Raiders while converting from outside linebacker to tight end to promoting his recently created foundation to opening a bar/restaurant in his hometown of Washington, Underwood is a bit frenzied and happily so.

"I have a lot on my plate, but I feel like everything has come together perfectly," said the former Illinois State All-American defensive end. "It's a unique time in my life. I can test the waters with all this stuff. I'm having a lot of fun with it. I'm not overwhelmed."

Asked to play a position he hasn't lined up at since high school by Oakland coach Jack Del Rio, Underwood faces the Herculean task of becoming an NFL tight end after playing outside linebacker with San Diego and Philadelphia.

"Coach Del Rio approached me and asked if I was willing to make the change. I'm not going to say no," said Underwood, who has switched from No. 48 to 87.

"I went to the first OTA (organized team activity) and it felt natural. I took it as a compliment. It would be very easy for them to release me and send me on my way. It showed they wanted to keep me around and give me a chance to do something else."

Underwood said his fellow Raiders have been helpful in the difficult transition.

"It's a bunch of guys who look out for each other," he said. "They are pretty good at helping me. I'm asking questions and learning every single day. I realize I have a long way to go, but I think it's gone pretty well."

Underwood's other summer activity has transformed into a year around quest. He will hold his second youth football camp to benefit Cystic Fibrosis on June 25 in Washington. Underwood expects 11 former ISU teammates and other NFL players to attend.

A new addition this year is the June 24 Gala Dinner at the Par-A-Dice Hotel in East Peoria. Details are available at Underwood is modeling the event after ESPN's ESPY Awards.

"Last year there were a lot of adults hanging around in the parking lot, waiting to talk to some of the players," Underwood said of the initial camp. "It made sense to put this on to let them mingle with players. And it's another fundraising event."

Inspired by his 4-year-old niece Harper, who has Cystic Fibrosis, Underwood has seen his efforts grow to the point he has established the Colton Underwood Legacy Foundation to encourage youth participation in athletics, fund Cystic Fibrosis research and support those battling the disease.

"It all started with Harper. She is doing really well. She's been very fortunate to not have any complications yet," Underwood said of his niece.

"There are three girls in our town (Washington) who have it. They are warriors. They take their treatment, they take their pills and conquer their day. It's eye opening and motivating."

Underwood considers his status as an NFL player a platform.

"It's been a blast putting on events and using this as a voice for something good," he said. "I'm doing something I really want to do. I'm very hands on with any detail."

Underwood called opening the Fourth and Goal Grill in Washington "another project that took off. It's been fun to do. I'm really excited for that."

ISU coach Brock Spack once called Underwood "the poster boy for what FCS football is all about."

And Underwood has not disappointed academically, either. He is currently taking an online class at ISU and is nine credit hours shy of earning a degree in business management.

Underwood is indeed a busy man, to a degree most of us can't even comprehend attempting. But the 24-year-old isn't just busy, he's busy doing good.

Follow Randy Reinhardt on Twitter: @pg_reinhardt



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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