It's right there in the 1966 Illini football guide: "Mike Rogers, 6-2, 255, Lane Tech ... Chicago prep wrestling champ in 1962-63 ...rated by coaches as a potential Dick Butkus."
The last we heard at the outset of the 1966 season was that Rogers, married and disinterested, was headed home for whatever awaited him.
And here we are 32 years later with the UI team sustaining another severe blow with the departure of an athlete who never played. Junior college transfer Connie Moore was the best player on the offensive unit, a receiver and kick returner with the quickness to raise fans off their seats.
He vaulted to the No. 1 unit overnight and became the UI's go-to guy, with coach Ron Turner installing plays to take advantage of his talents. Moore was projected to do for Illinois what Tim Dwight did for Iowa, what Brian Alford contributed to Purdue, what D'Wayne Bates means to Northwestern. He was projected as the UI's most explosive receiver this decade.
Now he's gone. Booted. For conduct detrimental to the team. On Saturday night at Rantoul High, he caught five passes and returned punts. On Sunday, his Big Ten career was over. And the Illini's offense, already labeled "starless," is minus the one individual who could have changed that.
Long list of nonplayers
The incident isn't unique. Between Rogers and Moore, two special athletes who committed but never appeared in an Illini game, there have been many.
We'll see one of them here Sept. 19 when Chris Redman arrives with Louisville. Redman was let out of his UI commitment after coach Lou Tepper fired coordinator Greg Landry. The Landry decision and the loss of Redman are pinpointed as the beginning of the end for the Tepper regime.
Louisiana's four-time All-State tackle Eric Jefferson and Evansville's fleet Mack Jacobs were two of the most highly recruited Illini this decade. UI coaches said Jacobs' talent as an offensive prospect compared with Simeon Rice on defense. Jefferson left, and Jacobs never gained eligibility.
Others? We've written reams about them. Joliet's Oku Satcher showed promise in 1995 but never panned out. Mattoon receiver Kevin Trimble left 1994 UI drills before school started. Flozell Adams committed to Illinois but didn't meet Tepper's academic standards and became an All-Big Ten tackle at Michigan State.
Illinois had two of East St. Louis' finest offensive members on the way in the early 1990s, but neither Homer Bush nor Chris Moore ever arrived.
A lot of hopes were wasted on Lionel Sykes, a St. Louis linebacker in the mid-80s, as the Illini made several academic tries that didn't work out.
One of three recruiting infractions that ultimately brought down coach Mike White was a trip to Chicago (in a noncontact period) to line up St. Lawrence tackle Paul Glonek after Notre Dame turned him down. Glonek attended summer classes here, but he was obliged to transfer to Iowa.
In 1982, halfback Jim Cumberbatch was set to fly from Hollywood, Fla., to enroll. He never got on the plane.
Then there was John Griffin, the state's top athlete at Rockford East in 1978-79. He and Auburn receiver James Reed were blue-chippers in every sense ... except the classroom. Neither made the grade at Illinois.
The list goes on and on, from Mendel tackle Bill Bassetto in 1970 to Indianapolis running back Torrence Terrell in 1988, from Assumption's Acie Fields in 1980 to Hazelwood East's DeMontie Cross in 1992.
Moore not easily replaced
School comes first, and just this summer the Illini lost two spring starters, cornerback Carlos McLaurin and guard Mike Flaar, to academics. But those two were replaceable. Connie Moore, it is feared, is not.
If Turner is discouraged, he won't let on. He still has two weeks to solidify the fluctuating receiving slots.
"We have enough guys to make plays," he said, noting that slow-starting William Loyd, who originally had been ranked with Moore, "is starting to come on." The competition remains strong with JC transfers Larry Davis, Terrance Smalls and Loyd battling returnees Michael Dean, Rob Majoy, Lenny Willis, and George McDonald-Ashford.
If Moore's departure hurts the cause, the improvement of Willis – despite two drops Saturday – is a positive note. Illinois will be no less aggressive with its passing game, if for no other reason than the spotty nature of the running game.
Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette.