Counting down the 50 most important Illini
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No. 2: Nathan Scheelhaase, quarterback.
Why he's important: Anybody else in the Big Ten win his first two bowl games? Just one, Wisconsin's Brooks Bollinger. If he takes the Illini to the postseason for a third consecutive time, and wins, Scheelhaase will tie for the most bowl wins by a Big Ten quarterback. Pretty good stuff for a guy who sat his first season as a redshirt and had to battle to gain the spot as a redshirt freshman. No surprise, he is in another offense. By our count that makes it three during his Illinois career and four if you count the fact that he was recruited to play Mike Locksley's offense. Scheelhaase says the current system most resembles the one run by Maryland's current offensive coordinator. In two years as a starter, Scheelhaase is climbing the Illinois career passing and total offense charts. He's on pace to become the school leader in the latter, passing Juice Williams. A durable runner, Scheelhaase has already gained 1,492 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. The current staff would like to see him take less hits, though they are willing to let him take off if he thinks it is best.
Fast fact: Scheelhaase's dad, Nate Creer, was a three-year starting defensive back at Iowa. In a strange scheduling twist, Scheelhaase will never play a game against his dad's alma mater. Unless they meet in the Big Ten title game.
Tomorrow: No. 1