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CHAMPAIGN – He wasn't much different than the guy you last saw in late April. Still wearing the red No. 2 jersey. Still politely answering every question. Still acting years beyond his age.
But it was different for Nathan Scheelhaase on Thursday. For the first time in his life, he practiced as the Illinois starting quarterback.
"I guess it changes a little in the summer because it requires more leadership," Scheelhaase said. "That's something I've looked forward to. It's a responsibility I'm willing to take. As far as out here on the practice field, I'm doing the same things, taking it all one rep at a time and trying to get better and better whether I'm the starter or not."
The biggest change might be postpractice, when his media session went about 12 minutes. The Illinois coaches likely won't allow it to become a daily routine, but they expected him to be a popular media choice the first time out.
Scheelhaase spent the summer working out with his teammates, trying to add to their knowledge of Paul Petrino's offense.
Now, they've got four-plus weeks of practice before opening Sept. 4 in St. Louis against Missouri.
"We've come a long way since the first day of spring," Scheelhaase said.
At his first Illinois training camp, Scheelhaase wasn't required to run the offense. That job belonged to Juice Williams, the school's career total offense leader.
"When you're the fourth-string guy, reps are limited," said Scheelhaase, who played behind Williams, Eddie McGee and Jacob Charest in 2009. "I got in there for that scrimmage at Rantoul and took about 15 reps. That's as many as I took the rest of the camp. This is a blessing, really. I'm excited to be out there."
Scheelhaase has prepared for his on-field work by keeping busy off of it. He's become notorious for late nights studying game film in the football offices.
He didn't just start watching game film last year. His dad, former Iowa defensive back Nate Creer, got him started earlier. Much earlier.
"I played center in second grade, and he would have me watch film of that," Scheelhaase said. "Once I got to high school that's when you really see the benefits of watching film and studying your opponents.
"That's something I'm going to continue for the rest of my time playing football. It can't do anything but help."
The offense Scheelhaase is playing now is a major change from the one he played as a college freshman. The spread is out. The huddle is back in.
"When people see us huddle now, they're like, 'What are we doing? Nobody's looking at the sideline,' " Scheelhaase said. "That's a huge difference from the fans' perspective."
Scheelhaase on ...
Is Brett Favre done?
Nope. I haven’t read the reports today, but for some reason, I don’t think so. That’s Brett being Brett. It’s crazy just watching that whole saga, every twist and turn that you see every day. It would be the most twist- and-turn movie ever made.
Sam Bradford’s contract
Lucky man. Lucky man. He’s a guy who deserves it. He had a great college career and made it through injuries. To have that chance to be an NFL starting quarterback is a dream for anyone. He’s the type of guy where the money isn’t really the issue. Obviously, he doesn’t mind it. I know he’s got to be excited to be that guy in St. Louis.
Will Bradford be at the Missouri game?
He might be. He can’t be a Missouri fan being from Oklahoma. Hopefully, we’ll get another fan in there.
Living at home this summer
I knew living at home would be great. Free meals. I saved a ton of money. My family has been great throughout this process. I love being around them.