Asmussen: Crouch looking ahead

Asmussen: Crouch looking ahead

Before he could think about starting the next chapter in his life, Chayce Crouch needed to decide about football. And his future in the sport.

The Illinois starting quarterback when the 2017 season opened, Crouch became a backup, a tight end and the starter again.

With one year of eligibility left, Crouch spent the postseason considering his options.

On Wednesday, Crouch told everyone his answer, on Twitter, announcing his retirement from the game.

"I didn't want to show up and play football if I wasn't giving my team everything that I had emotionally," Crouch said. "The main thing that went into the decision was if I still loved the game the same way that I loved the game when I was growing up and in high school and in college."

Crouch had been through a lot. He was working with his third head coach. He missed a bulk of the 2016 season with a serious shoulder injury and was benched in 2017 despite a 2-0 start.

Illinois went 5-19 in Crouch's final two seasons. Had the team been winning, would it have been easier for him to stay?

"Truthfully, I don't know the answer to that," Crouch said. "I imagine that would have been a lot more of a fun experience if we were winning more and going to bowls. I can't tell you if that would have factored into the decision."

While he received input from family and friends, the decision to leave the game came down to Crouch.

"My parents were there the entire process," Crouch said. "Everyone had their opinions about what they believed I should be doing. Whatever decision I made, I needed to be able to live with it and I need to be happy."

* * * 

The 22-year-old Crouch doesn't want to have any regrets.

Now or in the future.

"That competitive drive for specifically the game of football was completely used up," Crouch said.

He wanted to end his career as an Illini.

Crouch's announcement came the same day that Jeff George Jr. revealed his plans to transfer from Illinois. Coincidence? Absolutely.

"His decision had nothing to do with mine," Crouch said. "This is probably the biggest decision I have ever made in my entire life. I wouldn't let someone else's decision to have any impact on mine."

Crouch said he didn't realize George was leaving until after he made his own announcement.

"Me and Jeff have talked a bunch over break about different things," Crouch said. "I had a good idea he might be doing that."

Before going to Twitter, Crouch met with Lovie Smith on Monday.

"I didn't want to blindside my coaching staff with it over social media," Crouch said. "I woke up, drove to campus and talked to Coach Smith. We had a great conversation."

Crouch will always be an Illinois fan. He plans to attend games during the 2018 season.

"I love Illinois," Crouch said. "Illinois was the place that gave me the opportunity to come play in the Big Ten. They really took a chance on a recruit that wasn't as highly rated. I will always have the utmost respect for the coaches that gave me the opportunity to compete at this level.

"More than that, I fell in love with the university and the fans, the tradition of the program."

* * * 

He leaves behind many close friends, including receiver Mikey Dudek and offensive lineman Nick Allegretti.

"Obviously, they wanted me to come back," Crouch said. "At the same time, they understand what was going on in my head. We had some conversations about it."

Soon, Crouch will be moving into the business world. He accepted a position at Pfizer, the New York-based pharmaceutical company. Crouch will be a sales rep in Columbus, Ohio, about a 45-minute drive from his Newark home.

"I wanted to do something I'd be able to impact and help a lot of people positively," Crouch said. "I've always been interested in the field of medicine. It's a great fit moving forward."

Crouch starts his job in mid-March.

"I'm definitely excited to switch things up and try something new," Crouch said.

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-35105233 or by email at asmussen@new-gazette.com.

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