May 25, 2010
From the desk of Eddie McGee
Within darkness there is always a burning light of hope that is destined for arrival. Somehow and someway, with belief, and changes to the existing system hope of destiny lives and strives. This is the Fighting Illini football team's mind state in relation to the previous season and the upcoming. The team saw the hardest of times with the 2009 season. It took a huge toll on the program as a unit, but it has not broken the spirit of the team.
With all of the promise that last season initially provided due to the player personnel of that team, there was no doubt going into Camp Rantoul that that year was destined to be great. Coach Zook had his first recruiting class all in there senior season and amongst those last year players was the confidence of national title winners.
But there is a lot that goes into having a productive let alone a championship team. And quite frankly there was a lacking of "that needed stuff" within that group. This years' 2010 unit is just that a unit, not a team comprised of groups, hierarchy's and cliques. There is a genuine bond and connection between the current roster players along with a staff of coaches that push while expecting absolutely nothing but perfection and greatness.
These expectations and wants have spread amongst the players and it has now become not only a thought but a lifestyle. We will win. We will be the best. You see the game of football is hard, extremely difficult, and the best chance to win starts, not on the field during the game, but far beyond that. The beginning of the season is the offseason. The most athletic, confident and renowned team isn't the best team and will not win. The team that is an air-tight, unit who plays together and is mentally the toughest team will win every time. Because then you play each down as hard, as fast and as tough as you can because you know without a doubt that the guy next to you is doing exactly the same.
This is the difference. This team has seen what going out on the field as a group with a bunch of talented guys will get you. We realize you must be a "fist" in order to win. Think of a fist, all of your fingers balled up into a powerful collaboration that when used correctly can break through anything that stands in its way. That's exactly what this team is, a tight, well formed, impenetrable life form that works together to beat whoever is its opponent. This team has seen, understands, and recognizes what it takes to win and so it will; out of the darkness and into the light. Fighting Illini.
The longest and essentially the most important phase of the year has begun. The summer phase for the 2010 season is underway and it is the where champions are made. The entire team apart from the incoming freshman are back, lifting and working harder than ever before. There is a contagious, intense atmosphere during each workout and an undivided motivation to get better each and everyday. The leadership and bond on this team has started to evolve and take over, holding every player accountable and ensuring that optimal effort is given.
Yesterday the team got together to discuss and go over the plans for the summer. The captains or leaders on each side of the ball have become recognized and accepted. On offense myself and Nate Scheelhaase have taken on their respected leadership role, on the defensive side of the ball Tavon Wilson, Ian Thomas and Corey Liuget have been embraced and stepped up as well. Within all great teams the players police, take care of, and motivate themselves. Due to the fact that NCAA rules prohibit coach to player contact in a practice situation, the players must coach each other.
During yesterday's voluntary practice there was great evidence of the needed qualities that great teams have. The event was well organized, everyone practiced as hard as if the coaches were there, and most importantly the team enjoyed getting better together. This start to the season has kicked off amazingly and as the summer goes on each piece will continue to fall in place making the team sound in all areas. This will be a memorable start to the 2010 season and the best is yet to come.