GCMS product McNutt departs from Illinois football

GCMS product McNutt departs from Illinois football

URBANA — Mitch McNutt’s tenure with Illinois football officially is a short-lived one, as the former Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley standout told Lovie Smith’s staff Thursday night he’d be leaving the program.

After signing with the Illini in February as a preferred walk-on — and 251 days after helping the Falcons to a Class 2A state championship — McNutt determined he needed a change in scenery despite making strides toward becoming a special teams cog for Smith’s squad.

“I’ve been thinking about it all summer,” McNutt told The News-Gazette on Friday evening. “The main part is my nutrition. I just thought for me personally, I could do it better for myself. Doing my nutrition (my way) makes me a better athlete, so it makes football more enjoyable.”

McNutt said he was expecting certain dietary options — which he consumed regularly as a prep star — to be available through Illinois football on a consistent basis.

But that situation did not transpire, and McNutt added that he didn’t necessarily agree with the Illini staff’s nutrition advice and strategies.

The News-Gazette’s All-Area football 2017 Player of the Year felt similarly about the workouts in which he engaged while part of the Illinois roster.

“I thought I was a better athlete (in high school), 15 pounds heavier,” said the 6-foot McNutt, who played his senior season for the Falcons at 220 pounds. “(Thursday) they were trying to figure out some ways they could figure some workouts in and change some of the food. It’s nothing wrong with them — just for me personally.”

Smith didn’t elaborate much on McNutt’s departure after Friday’s first training camp practice.

“We have a lot of players that walk on to our program that assume they want to play football,” Smith said. “Some, eventually, decide that they don’t want to play. Not a whole lot for me to say. We thought he would be part of our team, and he decided not to.”

McNutt was an integral part of GCMS football’s 14-0 campaign last year, rushing for an area-best 1,693 yards and 32 touchdowns while also making 39 tackles on the defensive end.

With his immediate future settled, McNutt plans to step away from football for a little while and get back into his pre-college workout and nutrition routine. When asked if he’d still like to play football collegiately, McNutt said “as of right now, that’s what I’m thinking.”

He held offers from Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Wisconsin-Platteville prior to signing with the Illini as a preferred walk-on last February.

“The main goal is to work on my body and do what’s best for me,” McNutt said. “I have no idea if my football career is over or not. I don’t want it to be.”