Brotherly Love: Mendenhalls Bring Their Own Style To Illini
Oct. 12, 2007
While many players describe the family atmosphere of the football team as one of the reasons they chose to play at Illinois, there who only two players who can truly make such a claim. Brothers Rashard and Walter Mendenhall hail from Skokie, Ill., and have both been a big part of the resurgence of Illinois Football. Rashard, a junior, is having a breakout year carrying the ball, while Walter, a redshirt junior, is a key special teams player and is waiting in the wings on the running back depth chart.
Recently, Ben Taylor from the Illinois Sports Information office got their thoughts on everything from their messy apartment, to the Wayans brothers, to Camp Rantoul pranks.
Rashard: I think that was the decision from the beginning that we decided when the recruiting process started.
Walter: We kind of wanted to stay close to home, so there were only a select few schools like here, Northwestern and a couple schools in Indiana. Somewhere close that we could both play and our family could come see us.
Walter: He doesn't do anything, so I guess I'm the one who's cleaning all the time. Sometimes when I clean everything else, my room will be messed up. But I'm the one who does the cleaning, washing the dishes, the dusting and vacuuming.
Walter: Yeah, all the time. But it got to a point where I knew he wouldn't do it.
Rashard: Man, I'm smart enough to know that if I don't do it, he's gonna do it. So why would I wash the dishes when he will? I'll leave it at that.
Walter: That's just how it goes, man. Younger brothers always get it easy.
Rashard: People say Walt's got that grown-man style. The polos, button-ups, he likes to look neat with the nice shoes and everything. Just smooth. He doesn't really do too much jumping around, he's just a cool, laid-back, smooth guy.
Walter: Rashard is just more of the plain white t-shirt, black t-shirt, regular shoes kind of guy. He's the life of the party, I guess. He likes to be in the middle of everything, make things exciting. He's the one who kind of pushes me and I'm the one who kind of makes sure he doesn't go too far. So I guess we both balance each other out.
Rashard: He keeps me from going over the cliff and I keep bringing him closer to the edge.
Walter: That's the one thing we compete about, if anything. Who looks better, who gets more girls. I'm of course gonna pick me. But I think my track record is a little better than his.
Whose running style would you compare your brother's style to?
Walter: A lot of people compare it to Gale Sayers, but I think Rashard is just a unique guy. He's got some of everything. He's got that finesse but he's also been running powerfully this last year. He's got his own unique type of style and I just guess Rashard is Rashard.
Rashard: Walt's an athlete. He's a big, physical guy and also a fast guy. I compare him to an Eric Dickerson or a Herschel Walker. A big fast guy who breaks tackles but he can also do some things with his speed.
Walter: I guess the closest you can get is the Wayans Brothers, Shawn and Marlon. I'm Shawn and he's Marlon. That's the closest we can get to characters. He's Marlon because he's kind of the goofy one, kind of crazy. He's kind of the irresponsible one and I'm more the responsible one who cares about stuff.
Rashard: Man, that's an oxymoron.
Walter: Going to sleep or going to the pool. Just anything outside of the football.
Rashard: I remember Coach Zook's first year we had a surprise movie. That was a great memory. The year after that, last year, everybody was waiting on that surprise movie and it never came!
Rashard: (Strength coach) Lou Hernandez, every night he'd check the rooms and Kevin Mitchell and Justin Harrison, every night Lou came in their room they'd be playing salsa music real loud to mess with him because he's Hispanic. I thought that was hilarious.
Walter: As far as pranks, this year is the team that likes to make fun of each other the most. Everyday, non-stop, every time a whole group of us are together it's always somebody talking about the other person, but just in a laughing, joking manner.
Rashard: They talk about how dark I am, they talk about how big Juice's (Williams') head is, how little Duvie's (Chris Duvalt's) head is, DaJuan's (Warren's) bald spot.
Rashard: Steele's eyes--that they look sleepy all the time. Just anybody and anything. Anybody's fair game. They say Coach Zook looks like Ric Flair. We all remember Ric Flair, so he walks around and everybody goes `Wooo!'
Who's the funniest guy on the team?
Rashard: Everybody has different things. I think Chris Duvalt. He does impressions. He's just goofy and silly. Everybody's different. Duvie, how he acts. Juice, he talks about people and he's clever with it.
Walter: Rashard's funny, too, man. He gets his jokes in.
Rashard: Harrison, he's just rude.
Walter: Oh, yeah, man, I forgot about Russ! He's just different. Just how he is is funny.
Walter: Everybody's got their own style, but I would choose me.
Rashard: (Da)Juan's up there. I like Eddie McGee's DC style. It's a little bit different, and people might get on him a little bit about that, but I like Eddie's style.
Rashard: I don't know what it means, but `I ain't no Willie off the pickle boat.' Whatever that means.
Walter: Oh, yeah, that's the best. That's hilarious.
What's your favorite memory of any of the coaches?
Rashard: A thing I find funny is out on the field every day, Coach Sims likes to think of the field as a prison and the defense has its side of the yard and the offense has its side of the yard. And he made a shank and he carries it around. He has a pen or something wrapped in paper that looks like a prison shank and he carries that around. I don't know if many people know about that, I don't even know if it's legal, but that's funny.
Walter: Yeah, that's hilarious. That's the funniest thing.
Rashard: There's a lot of little funny things that come from Coach Mitch. He always talks about when we mess up that he'll fire us before they fire him. One thing that always cracks me up is he says `My kids have one bad habit, they like to eat three meals a day.' So he has to do his job so he can feed his kids. I think that's funny.