Yes, the question was asked.
"What kind of animal would you rather be, a cat or a dog?"
Derek Dimke's answer:
"I said, 'A dog.' I'm a dog guy."
One of the best kickers in Illinois history, Dimke joined a handful of specialists at this week's NFL combine. Like the rest of the players in Indianapolis, he was given psychological tests, which included the dog vs. cat question.
"They've been putting us through all kinds of stuff," Dimke said.
Dimke wasn't asked to run any 40s or lift weights, though he was willing. What the NFL scouts wanted to see from the kickers was leg strength and accuracy.
"The kicking part went well," Dimke said. "I didn't have a perfect day, but I think I showed some scouts the potential I have. I hit some really good balls. I feel like I did well."
Being invited to the combine was an honor, Dimke said. He got to see many of the high-profile players: Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
And there were perks. Free gear from Under Armour, Nike, adidas, etc.
"It was pretty exciting," Dimke said. "They all have big booths out here. You go in there and they ask you what size you wear. And they'll give you some stuff. I've gotten a few pairs of shoes."
Dimke was done by Saturday morning but decided to stick around and watch some of the workouts.
"It's a lot more relaxed than it seems on TV," Dimke said. "Jeff (Allen) just got done running his 40. He was flying. He was looking good."
Dimke and offensive lineman Allen were joined at the combine by former Illini defensive end Whitney Mercilus and receiver A.J. Jenkins. Mercilus is projected as a first-round pick.
The draft decision on Dimke and the other kickers will come later.
"Right now, for specialists it's definitely too early," Dimke said. "Kickers don't normally get drafted. My hope is to find a team that will give me an opportunity to show what I can do in camp."
There will be more chances for Dimke to impress the scouts. Illinois will host a Pro Timing Day on March 6. And he is hoping to get called for individual workouts with various teams.
Unlike many of the players getting ready for the NFL, Dimke isn't taking the semester off to train. He is finishing up his degree work and will graduate in May.
"My teachers have been very accommodating to me, missing some days of class," Dimke said.
His classes are Mondays and Wednesdays. When Thursdays arrive, he is off to Arizona or Ohio to train with his kicking mentors.
A pair of former Illini have specialist jobs in the NFL. Punter Steve Weatherford just won a Super Bowl with the Giants. And kicker Neil Rackers reached the playoffs with the Texans.
Kicking and punting at Illinois is a good place to get ready for the NFL, Dimke said.
"Champaign is a tough place to kick with the wind and the weather," Dimke said.
My two cents
They have to do something. And after reading their statement earlier this week, the belief is that they will.
The 11 FBS conference commissioners, plus Notre Dame, met for two days in Dallas to discuss all things BCS. Then, they issued a five-paragraph summation of their talks.
Let's go paragraph by paragraph and read between the lines:
What they said: "In an effort to grow college football's great popularity and success, we just completed two days of productive meetings in Dallas, Texas."
What they meant: We didn't just play golf and eat big steaks. We realize there is a problem, and we know we will all be fired if we don't try to fix it.
What they said: "We have until the fall of this year to finalize any possible changes to our current structure. That's when contractual obligations require us to begin negotiations with our television carrier for future coverage decisions. We have a self-imposed deadline of sometime this summer to decide what changes we will propose to our governing bodies for football's post-season. It's still early in our process and we will continue to meet with our conferences and review options."
What they meant: Those money-hungry television folks are after us because of the low ratings. But we aren't going to be pushed around ... until they tell us we are. Basically, we have to make a change unless we want to turn into the NHL.
What they said: "Whatever we do, we want to protect college football's regular season, which is the best and most meaningful in sports. We want to preserve the great bowl tradition while making it better and more attractive. We also have heard the message about playing bowl games closer to or on January 1, the way it used to be."
What they meant: We would really like our fans to continue paying $70 a game to watch Michigan vs. (FCS school not named Appalachian State). We know if we have a full-blown playoff, fans will figure out to save their money for the tournament. And about the bowls, we aren't quite sure yet how they fit in, so we are going to say nice things until we have to boot them.
What they said: "As we proceed, we will evaluate the many pros and cons of numerous possible changes. Every idea has exciting up sides, as well as complicated consequences. From the realities of the calendar to the issues presented in terms of venues such as who hosts games, we have tremendous responsibilities and opportunities."
What they meant: You know that guy at work who always says, "It's not my fault"? That's us. We could be on our way to a disastrous choice, but we are going to wash our hands of it right now. Want to blame somebody, point at the media.
What they said: "The bottom line is we will continue to talk about how to make a great sport even better for student-athletes, fans and everyone who loves college football."
What they meant: Money, money, money, money, money. Oh, yeah, money.
Illinois has opened its new season ticket sales and renewals for the general public, faculty/staff and students. The deadline to guarantee your same seats from 2011 is April 3.
For a seven-game schedule, a season ticket in the main grandstands between the 20s costs $135 ($45 per game). Sideline season tickets are $230 ($32.85 per game). And horseshoe and student season tickets remain at $99 ($14.14 per game). New sales in the horseshoe won't start until May 15. The rest are on sale now.
In addition to the horseshoe, there will be $99 season tickets available in Section 109. That used to be the seats for visiting teams, but those fans now will sit in sections 208 and 209.
Single-game tickets go on sale July 17. They will cost $50 for the Big Ten games against Penn State, Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue. Tickets are $25 for nonconference games against Western Michigan, Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech. Western Michigan and Louisiana Tech earned bowl bids after the 2011 season.
Louisiana Tech was the WAC champion, going 6-1 in the league. Four of its five losses came by a combined 16 points against Southern Miss (12-2), Houston (13-1), Mississippi State (7-6) and TCU (11-2).
Charleston Southern is the anti-Louisiana Tech. The FCS Buccaneers went 0-11 in 2011, losing by a combined 124-10 against FBS schools Central Florida and Florida State.
There's a strong local flavor among the 18 coaches going into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Among the honorees are current Danville coach B.J. Luke, former Villa Grove coaches Kevin Crandall and Tim Nolen, former Gibson City coach Ron Metz and former Watseka coach Rick Odgers.
The Hall of Famers will be honored at noon March 31 at Champaign's Hilton Garden Inn.
Former Illini receiver Arrelious Benn will coach the Orange team during Tim Beckman's first spring game. The Blue team head coach will be Doug Dieken, who played for the Cleveland Browns while Beckman's dad, Dave, worked with the team.
"He's a close friend of the family," Beckman said.
Both coaches will pick offensive and defensive coordinators and draft their teams from the spring roster.
Beckman wants to see the ex-Illini on campus as much as possible.
"Every program that I have been involved in has great support from their former players," Beckman said. "If you were on the sidelines at Oklahoma State and didn't see Barry Sanders, something was wrong. Arms are open. This program is about them."
The winning team will eat steaks for dinner. And for the losers?
"Beans and weenies," Beckman said.
Beckman and the Illini will host more than 100 recruits today as part of a Junior Day. The stop includes a tour of the Illinois football facilities and seats for the Illinois-Iowa men's basketball game.
"We're going to show them the family atmosphere," Beckman said. "We're going to talk some football and show them some of the new things in the new era. We're going to show them why we're here and why we're building this thing for the future."
Support the team
Earlier in the week, the Illinois football players took in the Illinois women's basketball game against Northwestern. Today, they will be together for the men's basketball game against Iowa.
"I think that's so important," Beckman said. "We're there to support our men's basketball team and Coach (Bruce) Weber."
During the spring, the players will go together to softball and baseball games. Beckman had a similar practice during his time at Toledo.
Nebraska has completed its 2012 schedule with a Sept. 22 home game against Idaho State. The Huskers have added future games against Florida Atlantic (2014), BYU (2015) and South Alabama (2015, 2019).
Minnesota's 2012 season opener at UNLV has been moved up two days to Aug. 30. The game was moved at the request of the Mountain West. Time and a television assignment will be announced later.
Bob Asmussen covers college football for The News-Gazette. Reach him at 217-351-5233 or firstname.lastname@example.org.