ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – He wasn't gloating or taunting or anything like that, but Howard Griffith made sure Henry Jones saw his new Super Bowl ring.
The two former Illini – class of 1990 – were together at fellow alum Mike Bellamy's wedding this summer, and everyone was admiring Griffith's new jewelry. It came courtesy of Denver's win over Green Bay last winter.
CHAMPAIGN – Shortly after Ron Turner took over as Illinois coach, his staff started to go through tapes of the returning players.
No coach had as much fun as defensive coordinator Tim Kish. His list included future starters Danny Clark, Eric Guenther and Michael Young. And he found a fourth he liked about as much as the other three, Robert Franklin.
Here's an overview of what some of the specialty football pubilcations are saying about Illinois this season:
He won a national championship in San Diego, broke into the top 100 in Indianapolis and made his critics shush up in Morris.
But Jerrance Howard's most impressive performance of the summer, at least to his future fans, happened three weeks ago in Peoria.
The Sporting News applied the latest hit, picking Illinois 11th in the Big Ten and 83rd among 112 Division I-A football programs.
Face it: The Illini have fallen into disrespect. Nothing short of on-field success can turn it around.
CHAMPAIGN – Ron Turner doesn't claim to be a master gardener, but he knows when grass doesn't look right.
After returning from a family vacation in early August, Turner decided to check out the area east of Memorial Stadium. The grass didn't look right.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – He asks questions with the sincere concern of an alumnus and an Illinois football fan. He wonders about the quarterbacks and who's going to run the ball.
Going into his sixth year as executive vice president and general manager of the Buffalo Bills, Urbana graduate John Butler knows how tough the Illini had it in 1997. His Bills went through their first losing season since 1994 and their second since 1987.
NEW POSITION? Illinois coach Ron Turner has said he wants his best players on the field. On offense, that means Steve Havard and Jameel Cook in the same backfield.
Havard has worked some at fullback with Cook lined up at tailback.
"A little bit like we did with (Robert) Holcombe and myself the last two games last year," Havard said.
CHAMPAIGN – If Karol Kahrs turned a deaf ear to the ever-optimistic Mary Eggers Tendler, it would be understandable.
For years, former University of Illinois volleyball great Eggers has played in her alma mater's Networker Alumni Match. For years – 12 in all – the Illini varsity has kept a stranglehold on victory in the series. And for years, Eggers has assured UI associate athletic director Kahrs – who serves as the alumni team's coach – this is the year things would be different.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – First it was the New York Giants. A year later, the Buffalo Bills. Then the Indianapolis Colts.
All National Football League teams. All interested in Michigan State football coach Nick Saban.