The father-in-law of Illinois football coach Brett Bielema, Greg Helsberg, passed away on Wednesday, the university announced in a press release. The news comes about a week after the university announced the death of Bielema’s mother, Marilyn. The cause of death was not mentioned.
“Coach Bielema did not appear on the radio program tonight,” the press release read. His family is going through a difficult personal matter. Greg Helsberg, father of coach Bielema’s wife Jane, passed away earlier today. Please respect the privacy of Coach Bielema, Jane, and their families at this time.”
Bielema traveled with the Illini to their game this past Saturday against No. 3 Michigan after news of his mother’s passing. Illinois lost to the Wolverines, 19-17.
On Tuesday, Bielema spoke to the media about what the days have been like since his mother’s death.
“It was tough,” Bielema said via the Illini Inquirer. “Last Thursday, Friday, early Saturday morning was really, really emotional. Saturday night was. Sunday was a really tough day. I came home in the afternoon, and it was the first time that I I was in it with my family, and that was really, really hard. The Sunday night visit hosted hundreds of people through our little community, and it gave me a reprieve just to see so many old faces and people who were the world to me. I heard stories about my mother that I hadn’t heard before from people who hadn’t Never meet them but have heard about them. (Monday) The service was a great day to celebrate. I actually talked, which made my recovery process very good. I was able to share some stories about our family to people really there. I had people from the athletics department, who were there People from the Big Ten office. It was great to see the familiar faces. I appreciate all of you. Lots of people here in this community as well as the media have reached out to me. I think it’s just reassuring. I said to our people, always do the right thing, respect everyone and often Things come back to you ten times “.
Bielema added that “special” is the best way to describe his mother.
“Mom, I started hearing from people right away and then people didn’t hear about it until they watched the game and then people didn’t hear about it until after the game,” Bielema said. I would say people who know her well know who she is. But people who have met her through me, whether it’s a post-game celebration at my house, met her at a bowl game, bowl reps I’ve heard from, coaches I’ve worked with in the past, always said, “Your mom was a special one.”
“Perhaps the word special gets used a lot, but there’s no other way to describe her. She was a very giving person. It was all about other people. It was never about her, from early memories to the last, it’s always been about other people. She’s told My team so Friday night my dad was talking to me on Friday before I talk to the team and when Chase[Brown]was put on the sidelines there he’s obviously one of our good players at the end of a Purdue game the first thing she saw was the private on Chase and his mother Sydney.You asked me about their mom and their families and their situation and the first thing she said when she saw Chase get a throw up was, ‘Boy, I wish his mom was there.’ That’s the thing my dad said that was the first thing that came out of her mouth. That’s something only mom has that perspective.” .
Bielema grew up in Illinois and was a defensive lineman at Iowa.
Bielema was defensive coordinator at Kansas State and Wisconsin before, in 2006, he landed his first head coaching position with the Badgers. In 2013, he took the head coaching position at Arkansas and in 2021, after a few years in the NFL, he returned to Illinois as the head coach of the football team.
I thought, ‘Oh my God! “It was perfect in terms of seeing his family so often and everyone,” Marilyn said when asked about Bielema taking a job in Illinois. “We are so proud of him. He continues to care about people, that’s important.”
Bielema’s small-town past also helped him down the recruiting path.
“I think it’s very important because family is very important,” Marilyn said. “He had a group of friends and they were all very, very close and still to this day keep up with what’s going on. When you have a smaller, more caring community… there’s an added advantage to big cities, but I’d take the small towns.”
Illinois is currently enjoying one of its most successful seasons in recent memory. The Illini have beaten the likes of Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska.
With a 7-4 record, Illinois has already matched its win total from the previous two years and has its most regular season wins since 2007 under the previous head coach Ron Zook. The Illini closes the regular season on Saturday, November 26 at 2:30 PM CST.
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Will Backus contributed to this report.