A weekly chat: QB Kurt Kittner
Q. When did you first know you could play quarterback?
A. Eighth grade was my first year playing quarterback. I went into high school just ready to play football. I wanted to play running back. I don't know why. They wouldn't let me freshman year. They were like, 'No, you're playing quarterback.' I guess I know the reason why now.
Q. Growing up, when you were playing with your buddies, were you the guy playing quarterback?
A. No. I was just whatever we needed.
Q. When did you first know you could play quarterback at Illinois?
A. One time my high school coach, Coach (Tom) Cerasani, told me, 'You should go visit Illinois because I think they might offer you a scholarship.' I never thought that all that time would actually pay off. I never thought that I was that good of a quarterback. I thought I could go somewhere, but I didn't think it would be Big Ten.
Q. Let's say you had gone somewhere else, maybe Iowa or Notre Dame, would you be the starter in the third game of your freshman season?
A. I couldn't tell you.
Q. You told the Illinois coaches you wanted to be the starter. Would you have gone to those schools with the same idea?
A. I wouldn't gone to any other school without a chance of me playing.
Q. Did friends at Schaumburg approve of your college choice?
A. No, they gave me crap about it for a while. They were like, 'Illinois, what were they 2-8 last year?' That was before last season. After every (Illinois) game, this little freshman kid, this little butterball, he'd always tell me, 'Illinois 0-2.' Every week, he'd come back on Monday and he'd just start yelling in the hall. Then, I'd be chasing him around, 'Shut up.' I got an update from him. My friends, they didn't really make fun of it. Sometimes they asked me if I thought twice about it.
Q. How much influence did Coach Cerasani have on your decision?
A. I told him I wanted to commit early. He asked me every week, 'If today was the signing day, where would you go?' At the beginning, I would say here or Michigan State. The next week, I was like, 'Illinois.' The next week, I was 'Illinois.'
Q. You went to a high school known for producing quarterbacks. Had you gone to a running school, say Bolingbrook, do you think you would have been as prepared?
A. We had a pretty complex offense. If I was at an all running school, I probably wouldn't be anywhere.
Q. If you couldn't play quarterback, what position would you play?
A. I'd want to play running back. That would have been high school days and I'd be at a junior college somewhere, going to school.
Q. Is there another position you could play in college, linebacker or defensive back?
A. No. They're way too fast for me. I probably have been a basketball player if I didn't make it in football.
Q. Is there any other quarterback, college or pro, that reminds you of you?
A. No. I'm myself. I like (John) Elway and (Ryan) Leaf.
Q. What's the hardest hit you've ever taken in a game?
A. One time, against Barrington last year, the guy had me in a choke hold, took me down and jammed my head into the ground and I blacked out. That wasn't a punishing hit. I never got hit that hard.
Q. Coach Turner talks about wanting tough guys on his team. Are you a tough guy?
A. I try and be as much as I can. I try to act tough. I always give crap to the linemen. I know they could physically beat the crap out of me. I don't want to slide, but if there's an 8-foot, 400-pound guy, I'm going to slide. If I'm going to get killed, I'm going to slide. But if it's not going to be anything too punishing, I'm just going to take it.
Q. Describe your relationship with your Mom.
A. She's wonderful. She's always been there for me. She'll come to every game. I was in third grade and she signed us up for football. I didn't even want to play football. She said, 'Try it.' Good things happened. She put us in three different sports, football, baseball and basketball, just to keep us doing something. It worked out for the better. She always keeps you on your toes and she's got a great sense of humor and always keeps you smiling. There's been a lot of bad things happen in our household, but she's kept it up. When my parents got divorced, she worked her butt off to keep us where we're at. Really, that's where me and my brothers get all our traits.
Q. When you were on the field against Louisville, did you think about her?
A. I saw her. She was wearing my jersey. I always like to see my Mom before the game. She's always there early.
Q. Do you consider Mark Hoekstra a friend?
A. Yes. I room with him during the games. During the summer, he was pretty helpful.
Q. You've got 41 games left in your Illinois career. How many of those games do you expect to start?
A. I'd like to start all 41 of them. It's in my own hands. It's my job to lose. I can lose it as fast as I got it.
Q. What are your personal goals for the rest of the season?
A. I just want to get some experience under my belt, take care of the football and do what I'm here to do, complete passes. Put us in the best position to win.
Q. Are stats important to you?
A. Not as much as wins and losses.
Q. Did you look at the stats Saturday?
A. I did garbage. I looked at it in the paper and I wasn't too happy with it.
Q.Ten years from now, what will you be doing?
A. Hopefully, still playing football. If not, probably somewhere in the business world or coaching.
Q. Tell me something people don't know about you?
A. I don't think I have anything. I'm just a normal guy.
Q.What do you do for fun?
A. I just relax. This is a big change. It's hectic. Every chance I have, I like to relax.