April 21, 2010
By Nicole Mechling, Illinois Sports Information
Since the day he began playing flag football in grade school, redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase impressed his parents both on and off the field. Now, after a season on the sidelines, Scheelhaase hopes to impress the fans in his new hometown.
From the moment he set foot on campus, Scheelhaase loved the University of Illinois. Although he received scholarship offers from 21 schools, to him, Illinois was special.
"I loved the coach here, loved what this campus is all about, and it just felt like home," explained Scheelhaase. "Once I decided I was coming here, that was it."
Last summer, Scheelhaase's parents, LouAnn Scheelhaase and former University of Iowa football player Nate Creer, left their home in Kansas City, Mo., to follow their son's career.
"We sold our house last August 7 and we moved here August 8," said Creer. "We've been here ever since. This is home now."
Unlike some college students, Scheelhaase does not mind having his parents close.
"They've watched me play football since I was in second grade," said Scheelhaase. "They want to be in Big Ten country. They don't want to miss a game or have to wake up early and drive way out to Penn State or something like that, so I think it's a blessing. I love that they've been there for me every step of the way."
Scheelhaase relies on his parents for advice, so sharing an area code is convenient. When he needs input regarding his football career, his father is a short trip away.
"My dad played college football, so he knows what you need to do, day in and day out, to prepare yourself adequately, and I try to do that every day," Scheelhaase explained.
As a former Big Ten football player, Creer has taught his son many things. But Scheelhaase didn't learn everything from his father.
"He gets the niceness from his mom's side," Creer admitted. "Mom is the nice one. If Nathan and I are arguing, she's always the one to settle me down."
"She's a super-smart lady," Scheelhaase said of his mother. "She lets my dad get more of the football stuff, but she teaches me about life, about loving God and staying in school. She has really planted that seed in me."
Scheelhaase is more than an athlete. He stays out of trouble and makes his parents proud with his positive attitude and work ethic, taking care of business on the field and in the classroom.
"I'm here to go to school and play football, so I think those are the two things I need to take care of," Scheelhaase explained. "I like hanging out with my friends, the guys on the football team, but there are a lot of things I love right here in between these white lines. I think if I stay focused on that, I can do the (other) stuff down the road."
Scheelhaase is ready to demonstrate his focus in a game situation. From second grade to high school, he never sat out for an extended period of time, making last season when he redshirted very difficult.
"He always played, always started," Creer said. "Last year was hard not seeing him play, but, even though he redshirted, we made every single game, home and away."
After a season of watching from the sidelines and running the scout team in practice, Scheelhaase remains motivated.
"It was probably the biggest turning point for me in my football career," Scheelhaase said. "When you sit on the bench the whole season and watch people do what you love to do, it makes you want it even more."
"It's fun," Scheelhaase said. "Competition brings out the best in everyone. There are guys right next to you trying to get the same spot that you're trying to get, so I just go out there each day, stay focused and do as much as I can in the film room, so I'm ready once practice time starts."
After waiting patiently in 2009, Scheelhaase is ready to take the field. With his positive personality, professionalism and athletic talent, he hopes to continue his success in the classroom and lead the Illini to victories.
"I knew in third grade that he was something special," said Creer. "You get the whole package with this kid."
Spring Practice Update
The Illini had practice #13 of the Spring on Wednesday evening. The team scrimmaged inside Memorial Stadium for the final hour in preparation for Saturday's Orange and Blue Spring Game at 1 p.m. Illinois will have one more practice session on Friday evening at 4:15 p.m., before the Spring Game.