1 day to Camp Rantoul
Counting down the 50 most important Illini
No. 1: Nathan Scheelhaase, quarterback
Why he’s important: Pretty obvious. The Kansas City Rockhurst product will end his Illinois career with three selections to the top spot, with Terry Hawthorne receiving the title last year, but Scheelhaase not far behind at No. 2. And it’s clear why. He should end his career having the most starts among any quarterback at Illinois (enters the year third with 36, only behind Kurt Kittner’s 39 and Juice Williams’ 44) and could possibly take hold of No. 1 if he leads Illinois to a bowl game. The dual-threat talent didn’t have much success throwing or running the ball last year. He only threw for 1,361 yards, four touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2012 while rushing for a career-low 303 yards on 125 carries for a paltry 2.4 yards average. He has the moxie, the leadership skills, the people skills and the personality you want out of a quarterback. He got married last month and graduated last December with a bachelor’s degree in communications. Now working towards his master’s in recreation, sport and tourism, Scheelhaase has one final chance to write what his legacy at Illinois will ultimately end up becoming. Tim Beckman did not hesitate to declare he is the starter at Big Ten Media Days, and it’s a role Scheelhaase will fill. Unless the dreaded injuries that affected Scheelhaase last year creep up again. While he admits the talent he is playing with his final season might not be on par with what he had at the beginning of his career, the team chemistry is at as high a level as he has seen during his stay in Champaign-Urbana. Anything less than a bowl game and Scheelhaase will not be satisfied.
Fast fact: Scheelhaase is one of four players still around from the Class of 2009. He’ll end his career alongside wide receiver Steve Hull, backup center Jake Feldmeyer and defensive end Tim Kynard.