36 days to Western Michigan

Counting down the 50 most important Illini

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No. 36: Zak Pedersen, long snapper.

Why he's important: When Tim Beckman took over at Illinois, special teams became a top priority. While the punting and kicking need major work, he has no such problem with the guy getting the ball back to the punter and kicker. A two-year starter, Pedersen rarely gets his name mentioned in the paper. And that's a good thing. Like the referee, the long snapper only gets noticed when something goes wrong. Ranked among the nation's top long snappers as a high school senior, he helped Joliet Catholic win a state title.

Fast fact: There might not be a more active guy off the field for the Illini. He organized a Lift for Life earlier this summer, raising money for charity. And he has volunteered with Meals on Wheels and the Special Olympics.

Tomorrow: No. 35

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