Nathan Scheelhaase: Hitch route
CHAMPAIGN — The movie was either “The Grudge 2” or “The Ring Two.”
Nathan Scheelhaase can’t quite remember. It was more than four years ago.
He does remember, though, that it was one of the first dates he had with Morgan Miller.
“I can’t stand scary movies, so it definitely wasn’t my decision,” Scheelhaase said with a laugh after recalling the double date. “I think she was more scared than me, surprisingly. I barely watched the movie.”
They’ve watched plenty of movies together since. And will for some time.
Morgan Miller became Morgan Scheelhaase when she married the Illinois starting quarterback on July 6 outside her family’s barn just north of Kansas City, Mo.
The 22-year-old Scheelhaase enters his final season with pressure to improve upon a disappointing 2012 season at Illinois.
Pressure to stay healthy. Pressure to grasp Bill Cubit’s new offense. Pressure to lead Illinois to another bowl game like he did his first two seasons.
But not pressure in his personal life. Well, maybe some pressure to keep the couple’s off-campus Champaign apartment tidy.
“She’s a lot more organized than me and a lot more clean than me,” Scheelhaase said. “I’ve always lived alone after living with Steve (Hull) in the dorms my freshman year. I kind of had been able to do whatever I wanted and not worry about a roommate. She definitely is a whole lot more organized than me, but I think I’ve done a good job.”
Morgan said it’s improving. Slowly at times. But improving.
“I’m trying to do that nicely because I don’t want to be portrayed as the nagging wife,” Morgan said with a laugh. “I’m trying to do that gracefully. The other day he came home, I said, ‘We’re going to do some tutorials on how to change the toilet paper roll.’ He grew up as an only child. He was catered to in a sense. I grew up with three sisters, so it was a little different.”
The road to marriage wasn’t easy for the Scheelhaases.
They started dating late in Nathan’s senior year at Kansas City Rockhurst, an all-boys high school. Morgan, 21, attended Park Hill South High School in nearby Riverside, Mo. She was a year behind him in school, so when Nathan left for Illinois in 2009, Morgan started her senior year of high school.
“Going through that first year apart, it was hard, especially with the distance,” Nathan said. “It was something we didn’t know if it would last.”
It didn’t. The couple took a break. Nathan was about to begin the 2010 season as Illinois’ starter after a redshirt season in 2009. Morgan was about to begin her freshman year at TCU.
“We both kind of figured out who we were and what we were all about,” Nathan said. “It wasn’t something that we necessarily thought was going to rekindle, but I think through our faith and it was shown to us that we were each other’s one. That was something that became evident to us.”
They stayed in touch. Didn’t date other people.
Then Nathan invited Morgan and her family to an Illinois game in 2011. They came. He invited her to another one. She came again.
“I think it was real obvious to both of us that we wanted to be together,” Nathan said. “At that point in time we knew getting back together would be very serious. We knew it would be more than just a dating relationship. I think I was more intentional with her at that point, and she knew my intentions.”
Nathan followed through with his intentions Feb. 8, the day he proposed to Morgan.
He flew to TCU’s campus in Fort Worth, Texas. Her friends helped Nathan out by telling Morgan they were going to take her to dinner in Dallas.
She didn’t know her life was about to change. Until her friends drove her to a church on TCU’s campus, where Nathan was waiting. With an engagement ring in his pocket.
“They had it set up with a bunch of candles and lights,” Nathan said. “She came around the corner and saw I was there. It was just an awesome moment.”
Nathan pulled out the engagement ring, got down on his knee and popped the question.
The wedding-planning process came together in less than five months. Morgan graduated from TCU in the spring and now works at Illinois in the Office of Public Affairs department as a project manager.
“It wasn’t ever something that we were going to wait on,” Nathan said. “People can always make excuses for why they waited. I knew who I wanted to be with and that she was the one. We didn’t really want to waste any more time. In our society there’s always going to be excuses as to why not to, but we were looking for reasons why to.”
The days of using Skype or FaceTime to communicate daily are no more.
“I don’t think there’s a way to track your Skype minutes,” Nathan said with a smile, “but I’m sure I logged a whole lot of hours.”
Miles Osei knows. The Illinois wide receiver was Nathan’s best man and felt like he knew Morgan before he even met her.
“Every year (at Camp Rantoul) we’d room together, and he’d always talk about Morgan,” Osei said. “You’d listen to him, but in the back of your head, you’re going, ‘Come on, dude. I’m trying to go to sleep.’ He’d be laughing on the phone late at night. You could tell how excited he was talking to her.”
Illinois coach Tim Beckman wasn’t worried about his quarterback getting married prior to his final season.
“I think wives help you in everything, don’t they?” Beckman asked with a laugh after a recent practice with his wife, Kim, nearby. “Knowing Nate and as good a person as he is, he probably could have told me things. Nate Scheelhaase is a special kid.”
Morgan didn’t enjoy the long-distance aspect of the relationship. At first. Over time, she grew to appreciate it more.
“Looking back on it now, it was probably one of the best things for us,” Morgan said. “It allowed us to keep our focus.”
Scheelhaase has turned his wife into a football fan. Expect to see Morgan at plenty of Illinois games this fall. With her eye on No. 2.
“I think he looks very attractive in all his football gear,” Morgan said. “I’m not crazy about the football scene just because I don’t know much about it, but there’s nothing more attractive than seeing your man in his element.”
When she first met Nathan, Morgan didn’t know about his accomplishments at Rockhurst. Didn’t know he was a big-time recruit. Didn’t know he was going to Illinois to play football.
“I loved that about her because when she was getting to know me, she was getting to know the real me,” Nathan said. “That’s something that’s always really cool to look back on. She’s truly in this for me and for who I am as a person.”
Happily ever after
Nathan Scheelhaase isn’t the first college quarterback to get married. Here are five other signal-callers who all said “I do” in college:
Collin Klein, Kansas State — Heisman front-runner at times during the 2012 season and former Wildcats women’s basketball player Shalin Spani celebrated their first anniversary July 21.
Landry Jones, Oklahoma — School’s all-time leader in passing yards (16,646) roped in former Sooners women’s basketball player Whitney Hand last summer.
Case Keenum, Houston — NCAA record-holder for career passing yards (19,217) who’s now fighting for a roster spot with the Houston Texans married the former Kimberly Caddell the summer before he threw for 5,631 yards, 48 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2011.
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State — It would seem normal for a 25-year-old to get married. Which is how old the former minor league baseball player — who flourished during his final two seasons in Stillwater — was when he got married to Melanie Meuser in 2009.
Kellen Moore, Boise State — All-time winningest college QB married his high school sweetheart, Julie Wilson, a month before the Broncos started the 2011 season. Didn’t hurt the left-hander (3,800 yards, 43 touchdowns) or his team (12-1).
Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase can crack the top five in a handful of categories in the Illinois record books. A look:
Career Rushing by a QB
QB, YEARS YARDS
1. Juice Williams, 2006-09 2,557
2. Scheelhaase, 2010- present 1,795
Career total offense
1. Juice Williams, 2006-09 10,594
2. Kurt Kittner, 1998-2001 8,880
3. Jack Trudeau, 1981-85 8,640
4. Jason Verduzco, 1989-92 7,256
5. Scheelhaase, 2010-present 7,091
6. Tony Eason, 1981-82 7,031
Career passing yards
1. Jack Trudeau, 1981-85 8,725
2. Kurt Kittner, 1998-2001 8,772
3. Juice Williams, 2006-09 8,037
4. Jason Verduzco, 1989-92 7,532
5. Tony Eason, 1981-82 7,031
6. Scheelhaase, 2010-present 5,296
Career Pass completions
1. Jack Trudeau, 1981-85 797
2. Kurt Kittner, 1998-2001 682
3. Jason Verduzco, 1989-92 678
4. Juice Williams, 2006-09 606
5. Tony Eason, 1981-82 561
6. Scheelhaase, 2010-present 488
Career Pass Attempts
1. Kurt Kittner, 1998-2001 1,264
2. Jack Trudeau, 1981-85 1,245
3. Juice Williams, 2006-09 1,136
4. Jason Verduzco, 1989-92 1,083
5. Tony Eason, 1981-82 911
6. Johnny Johnson, 1992-95 819
7. Scheelhaase, 2010-present 801