Staff writer Bob Asmussen was at the first Camp Rantoul in 1998 and has attended all or parts of every one since. Here are his five most vivid memories:
Desperate to find help at receiver his second season, Ron Turner brought in junior college star Connie Moore for the first Camp Rantoul in 1998. He didn’t last long. Moore got into it with one of the team’s grad assistants and was quickly shown the door. None of the four JC receivers that year finished their eligibility at Illinois.
It’s a bird
Or is that a skydiver? During the early years of Camp Rantoul, the city also hosted a skydiving festival/celebration/convention. Of course, a diver or two got too close to practice and landed on or near the fields. No harm done.
The grass isn’t always greener
Before the start of the 2001 camp, something went horribly wrong on the practice fields, which died and were ruled unplayable. That forced the Illini to scramble and return to C-U for training camp. It worked out well with the team winning the Big Ten that season. But loyal Turner returned to Rantoul in 2002.
It’s a big plane
Actually, two of them. Ron Zook asked former player and fighter pilot Spider Jones to buzz the fields in his F-18 during a 2007 practice. Jones, who played for Zook at Tennessee, talked to the team. Reporters were not allowed in the jets. Smart.
During a scrimmage in 2003 at Rantoul High School, wide receiver Kelvin Hayden suffered a knee injury on an unwise hit by cornerback Christian Morton. Hayden recovered nicely, eventually becoming a cornerback in his last season at Illinois. He later scored a touchdown in a Super Bowl.