2013 Fighting Illini Football Senior Reflections
Nov. 27, 2013
Saturday's game against Northwestern (2:30 pm CT, BTN) will mark the final game for 15 Fighting Illini seniors: Jonathan Brown, Jake Feldmeyer, Nick Forzley, Spencer Harris, Steve Hull, Brad Janitz, Tim Kynard, Ryan Lankford, Corey Lewis, Ben Mathis, Miles Osei, Daniel Quintana, Tim Russell, Nathan Scheelhaase and Evan Wilson.
What is your best memory from playing football at Illinois?
Jonathan Brown: Time spent around my teammates. I've had a lot of good times here.
Jake Feldmeyer: My best memory from playing football here at U of I would have to be my first start for the Charleston Southern game last year. I had played in games before but never started, and my whole family and all of my friends were there to see the game. It was a beautiful day and we played really well and got the win. I look back on it as one of those perfect days that are few and far between in life.
Nick Forzley: My best memory from playing football here at Illinois is when I stepped onto the field for the first time vs. Charleston Southern.
Spencer Harris: The best memory I have from playing football here was when we beat ranked Arizona State at home my sophomore year under the lights. But other than football related, my best memories would be when a couple of my teammates and I would go on camping and canoeing trips during the summer.
Steve Hull: Best memory is breaking up a 4th-and-10 pass against Arizona State at home under the lights that gave the ball back to our offense and sealed our victory.
Brad Janitz: My best memory of playing football at Illinois would be beating ASU at home under the lights. The feeling was so surreal and the environment was crazy. Being under the lights made it even better, knowing that it was a primetime game that everyone was watching. The feeling of knocking off a ranked team and having a fan base so proudly behind us is something I won't ever forget.
Tim Kynard: My first sack against Northwestern has to be my all-time favorite memory from playing football here; it was a game-changing play.
Ryan Lankford: My best memory was both my freshman and sophomore year seasons. Going to back-to-back bowl games and winning. The entire bowl game experience was great. From figuring out where we were going, to the entire week being there and having all types of free time in a big city. So many funny stories and great memories!
Corey Lewis: My greatest memory would have to be when I returned to play against Ohio State during the 2012 season. It was my first time being able to play in an actual game in almost three years due to all the injuries I endured during my career. That one moment made the three ACL surgeries and five total knee surgeries all worth it. Having the opportunity to play with my teammates again was very special to me.
Ben Mathis: My best memory was when we beat Arizona State at home during the 2011 season. Being able to celebrate with teammates and friends after the game made the night even more memorable.
Miles Osei: My best memory from playing football at Illinois is going on numerous trips with Ryan Lankford, Nathan Scheelhaase, Reilly O'Toole and Steve Hull. The one that sticks out the most is Nate's bachelor weekend and the week of his wedding.
Daniel Quintana: One of my favorite memories actually occurred this year. It was when I carried out the Illinois state flag against Wisconsin. It was our first night game of the season and the environment was great. It was a moment I will cherish forever. I was given the opportunity to lead my team onto the field in front of all our fans. Under the lights in a Big Ten game, there really is nothing like it.
Tim Russell: My greatest memory is playing at Wrigley Field and beating Northwestern to become bowl-eligible.
Nathan Scheelhaase: Winning back-to-back bowl games for the first time in Illinois history. Both were great trips that I enjoyed with my teammates. Leaving with wins over Baylor and UCLA is something I'll always remember.
Evan Wilson: I think some of the best memories I have had playing football would have to be the bowl trips to Texas and San Francisco. Just being in a new city, playing football and hanging out with my teammates was a wonderful experience.
What advice would you like to pass on to next year's freshmen?
Brown: Work hard every day and never become complacent because your situation can change rapidly.
Feldmeyer: I would like to tell all of the freshman to just slow down and take it all in. You are a part of something really special and bigger than yourself, so realize and appreciate that. Work hard in football but cherish the little stuff like joking around in the locker room and the relationships that you make, which will last a lifetime. Cherish the good times and keep working through the tough ones.
Forzley: Appreciate the little things. Appreciate each practice, lift, scrimmage and film session because it goes by too fast. This is a part of your life you'll never forget, so live it up.
Harris: Enjoy the years of football and the camaraderie you have with your teammates while you can, the time flies. Wins and losses will come and go, but the friendships and memories you make will last a lifetime.
Hull: Soak it all in. Every chance you get to be around this game, learn as much as you can and compete day in and day out, on and off the field.
Janitz: To the freshmen coming in next year, I would just say buy in. Success depends on the team as a whole following the coaches and buying into a system with a common and specific goal. If you buy in, not only will you succeed as a team on the field, but as a family off the field.
Kynard: Enjoy your time while you are here, as it goes fast. Best years of your life.
Lankford: Just to enjoy the journey. Cherish every single moment that you are in college and being a college athlete. Embrace it. Cherish every play because you never know when your last play will be. And most importantly, have fun! Don't get so outside of yourself where you forget why you started playing this game as a kid. Always have fun.
Lewis: Your time as a student-athlete goes by very fast, so enjoy every moment and take advantage of every opportunity to make yourself better on and off the field every day.
Mathis: I would advise them to spend time with their teammates outside of football. Not only will you make friendships that will last a lifetime but also the chemistry that you develop will result in success on the field. Osei: Respect the older guys and listen to their experiences, you'll learn a lot. Enjoy your teammates because you'll make some of your best memories with them over the years. Quintana: I would tell next year's freshmen to enjoy it all. From summer camp to spring practices. It truly does flash by and before you know it, its over. This game will help you in more ways than you will know. Hopefully by the end of your career, you will become a man of character and integrity. The adversity will help you grow as a person and by the end of your career, football will have helped you immensely. Russell: Keep your head up and don't get discouraged. There are a lot of ups and downs in college football in season and out of season. Keep fighting and good things will come.
For 4-5 years people will compliment you, criticize you and always pay attention to you. Make sure the legacy you leave behind is worth following. You have a platform for a short amount of time, use it to better others.
Wilson: Just make every moment memorable. Your time here is so short that you may not realize all that you get to experience.
How have you changed during your career at Illinois?
Brown: I became a man and matured as a person in a lot of different areas.
Feldmeyer: I have changed an unbelievable amount during my time here at the University of Illinois. They say football is the ultimate microcosm of life and it couldn't be more true. My career here really has changed me from a boy to a man. I have learned countless lessons and made unbelievable relationships with great people. I truly consider myself blessed to have had the opportunity to be an athlete here at the University of Illinois.
Forzley: I've become a more confident and humble person. The opportunities and memories I have from playing here are unbelievable.
Harris: My experiences at Illinois have shaped me into a better man through the thick and thin. I've learned to enjoy the small things in life and make the most of them.
Hull: I've changed in a lot of ways. Biggest thing would probably be understanding how to prioritize what is most important, and how to sacrifice and persevere through obstacles to achieve what you want.
Janitz: Illinois has provided me an environment to grow as a man by allowing me to understand the capabilities I possess physically, mentally, and emotionally from my experiences on the football field and in the classroom. I have been challenged to be my best here and it has left me a changed and much more mature individual from when I arrived.
Kynard: As the years passed and the more experience I got, I started to see myself become a part of the team, which became a big part of my family and life overall.
Lankford: I've become me. I think that football at this level teaches you a lot about yourself. I've gone through great highs and lows that have ultimately made me a stronger and better man.
Lewis: Well, with being here for six years, I think I have changed due to the fact that I have simply grown up. When I stepped foot on campus a young 17-year-old just trying to find my way, but now I'm a confident, more experienced 23-year-old. During my time here, I have faced a lot of ups and downs both on and off the field, and I believe those challenges have helped prepare me better for the rest of my life.
Mathis: I have learned to appreciate what others have done for me and to not take a day for granted. Osei: I have been a lot more open to meeting new people. I used to be very shy around people I didn't know, but I am much better. Quintana: Football has set me up with the values I will live by for the rest of my life. I like to think I have grown a great amount in my time here. Personally, football has made me a much stronger person inside, and I know I will be able to make it through anything. Russell: I have definitely become a better person and teammate over the last five seasons. I have matured a lot as a member of this football team and as a person.
I am five years older, married, will have two degrees and I know four offenses.
Wilson: Over these past four years, I have seen a lot of changes and the one thing that these four years has taught me is to be flexible with those changes. Not everything is going to go your way in life. You have to learn how to roll with the punches.
If you were to will one thing to a teammate you're leaving behind what would it be and who would you leave it to?
Brown: Earnest Thomas and that would be to lead this team throughout all the adversity that we deal with as players.
Feldmeyer: If it were possible to leave my facial hair to someone, I would but due to lack of scientific advancements that's, impossible. Instead, I would like to leave my locker spot in the locker room on what we call "the block" to Joe Spencer. It's big shoes to fill and a lot of responsibility, but I like to think he will rise to the occasion.
Forzley: My rocking bod to DJ Woods.
Harris: If I were to will one thing to someone on the team, it would be my scooter and I would leave it behind to Tony Durkin since he is the biggest mooch for a scooter ride on the team.
Hull: I would will the feeling of realizing you have no time left at this university and the feeling of looking back realizing how much more you could have done. I would leave this behind in hopes to motivate guys to take advantage of every opportunity because the window of time spent at Illinois is nothing compared to the rest of your life.
Janitz: This is deep! I guess if I were to will a physical item to a teammate, it would be my facemask to Ryan Frain. There is really no reason for this other than the kid is obsessed with having it. Don't ask me why.
Kynard: If I were to pass anything down, it would be my goofiness and light-hearted character to everyone on the team.
Lankford: Just the passion I have for the game. The passion I have toward my brothers in that locker room. The passion and joy I feel waking up every day knowing that I'm doing something that I have dreamed of doing since I was a little kid. I tell people all the time, "I'm literally living out my dreams." There isn't one guy I would pass it to. If I could pass it to everyone, I would.
Lewis: I would love to leave the legacy of perseverance and hard work to anybody who may be enduring difficult times as an Illini. I know during my time I faced a lot of difficult times with my injuries and other things, but I continued to persevere and it has allowed me to be where I am today. I also would personally love to see my fellow O-lineman/roommates Simon Cvijanovic and Ted Karras do well. They will both be great players and leaders for this team.
Mathis: I would will my weight room shoes (passed down from Miami Thomas) to Eaton Spence. Osei: I would like to give Jon Davis my crown as the best video game player on the football team over the years. It has been hard work being the best, but my time has come to give my prodigy, Jon Davis, the crown to carry for next year. Quintana: I would leave Houston "Biggity" Bates my gloves. He is the one person who needs something to remember me by since he'll probably miss me the most. Russell: I would leave behind the cleats I wore In Joe Paterno's last game against Penn State to whomever is the next place kick holder to remind them that you can bounce back.
Scheelhaase: I would leave my locker to Reilly O'Toole because it has the best view of the TV.
Wilson: I would have to give my swag to Donovonn Young. He is in desperate need of it, and I feel that somewhere deep inside, he wants to be like me when he grows up.
What is the best prank you've pulled on a teammate or the coaches at Illinois?
Brown: Never really pranked anyone here.
Feldmeyer: My junior year, in the O-Line room, the whole offensive line was waiting for Coach Gilbert. While waiting, we planted a bluetooth wireless speaker in one of the desk drawers. Once coach Gilbert arrived and started the meeting fellow offensive lineman Hugh Thorton kept playing music from his phone out of the wireless speaker in the back of the room. We were all doing a good job pretending like we had no idea where the music was coming from until, in an effort to stop the music, coach Gilbert unplugged the electric pencil sharpener. When he did that we all lost it and the jig was up.
Forzley: Telling Alex Porter that he missed a lift when we had an off day.
Harris: The best prank I have ever pulled was on a past TE/FB coach, Chip Long. We were on spring break in Florida and had called the coach and told him that his star fullback Jay Prosch has disappeared and had no idea where he was from the night before. Granted, we had to leave the next day to head back to campus for spring practice and told the coach that we were coming back without him. After letting the coach suffer from being paranoid for about 12 hours we decided to call the prank off in order to avoid all punishment in the upcoming spring ball.
Hull: I'm not much of a prank guy but I have to say Reilly O'Toole scaring Miles Osei in the middle of the night was easily the funniest thing I've ever seen.
Janitz: I don't know that you could consider it a prank but at a practice in our indoor facility, I punted a ball into the ceiling as usual but accidentally hit a sprinkler head. Of course, water began blasting out of that faucet and raining down in the middle of practice and the fire alarms began going off. At least the rest of the KPS guys got a kick out of it. I think everyone else was just really confused as to what was going on. I would have felt pretty bad if we would have had to go out and practice in the freezing cold rain/snow, but luckily, we didn't have to.
Lankford: The best prank I've pulled would probably be my freshman year in the locker room, on "the block." The block was basically the line of lockers where we were located in the locker room. Spencer Harris, Darius Millines and I all had lockers next to each other. Almost every day I would be at the stadium before Spencer and Dee. What I would do is "flip" their lockers. Move everything! Name tags, cleats, gloves, helmet, clothes, even the pictures they had up and the things that were hanging up. So their locker would look identical to how they left it the day before, just in a different spot. They would get to their "original" locker only to find that their locker had been moved to the other persons. They would get all worked up and switch things back. I would just sit back and laugh and say "Bro, those seniors must really not like y'all boys!" I probably did this for a good two-and-a-half weeks until I came out and told them because they were ready to get coaches involved...Such big babies!
Lewis: Not a big prank guy. I leave that up to some of the more creative jokesters on our team.
Mathis: I once took everything out of Kaemen Mitchell's locker and told everyone he got kicked off the team. Osei: I never pulled a prank, but Reilly O'Toole pranked me the worst I've ever gotten pranked in my life. He and a few other teammates came to my apartment at 2 a.m. during finals week and videotaped me getting scared to death. It was a really good prank because I was so scared. Quintana: Never was one to pull pranks. I did enjoy listening to those done on other teammates. From prank phone calls to the ones that should be left behind doors, every single one was great and helped lighten up the mood. Thankfully nothing too bad was done to me during my time, but some teammates weren't so lucky. Russell: I'm not much of a prankster, but I have seen some good ones in my time here.
I'm not much of a prankster but it has been fun watching Reilly prank several teammates for the past three years.
Wilson: I'm not really sure. I've done so much goofy stuff here that every day I'm messing with somebody, so everybody gets pranked.
Finally, who do you want to thank?
Brown: God for my ability to play this game. My family for making the sacrifices they made all this season to come to my games. My teammates for helping me make it through the tough times and the many memories. The coaches throughout my years as an Illini for not only giving me the opportunity to play in the Big Ten but also helping me develop as a player. The people in the communities of Champaign-Urbana, Savoy, Rantoul and Mahomet for supporting me throughout my career as an Illini!
Feldmeyer: I would like to thank my family first and foremost. My parents have traveled to pretty much every game of my career whether I was redshirted or starting. Through the good times and the bad, my family has been there for me. My family has made the tough times easier to swallow and the good times a million times better. I also would like to thank all of my coaches through the years from high school to college. Often, in season, I spend way more time with my coaches than I do with my family and they have taught me many life lessons and molded who I am. Finally, I would like to thank my teammates. At the end of the day, it's the brothers on the team that make this sport worth playing and I will miss them greatly when this is all over.
Forzley: I thank all the coaches for everything they've done for me. Shout out to Kolby Jackson. He came in the same year as me and has been a great person. He's been someone that has made this journey more fun and when you're a head coach somewhere, don't forget about me. Finally, I thank my teammates. I owe them everything and without them, this journey wouldn't have meant as much. You guys will always be my family and I can't thank them enough.
Harris: I would like to thank all my teammates, coaches, academic advisors, and all the people associated with the University of Illinois that made my college experience here the best it could be.
Hull: I would like to thank God first off, because he blessed me with so much in my life and gave me the ability to play college football at the University of Illinois. I would like to thank my mom and dad; my brothers, Mike, Dave, and Alex; and my sister, Julie, along with my lovely girlfriend, Nicole.
Janitz: I have to thank everyone who has made an investment in my time here, this football program, and this school. This includes my mom, dad, sister, girlfriend, friends, my coaches, teammates, the football support staff, my teachers and my academic support, and, of course, the loyal Fighting Illini fans. All these people have allowed me to be successful and have been so supportive in my time here and I can't thank you all enough.
Kynard: I'd like to give a shout-out to everyone who has helped me get where I am today and help me develop into the person I am.
Lankford: Everyone! First, God, for giving me this opportunity and putting all of these wonderful people in my life. Coach Ron Zook because he was the man who recruited me. He told me "coming to Illinois will be the best decision of your life" and he was right. I want to thank that entire coaching staff, especially Paul Petrino, who taught me really how be a leader through my actions not words. I want to thank the academic advisors: Carla, Annie and Kristin. All of the training staff. Trent, the equipment manager, and all his staff. Coach Beckman and his staff. Both of my offensive coordinators, Coach Beatty and Cubit, who both taught me new things in a short amount of time. Both of my wide receiver coaches, Coach Gonzalez and Bellamy. All my teammates from 2010 until now! I've built some lifelong relationships in that locker room. And finally, the fans. The support and love that I have received from the Illini faithful since my freshman year and especially after my injury I could not have asked for anything more. Thank you!
Lewis: First off, I would like to thank God for allowing me to get to this point in my life. I'd also like to thank my family, friends and teammates that have been with me during this journey. I would like to thank Coach Ron Zook and his staff for giving me the opportunity to be an Illini in the first place and I'd also like to thank Coach Beckman for giving me the opportunity to come back for a sixth year. I'd also like to thank all the coaches and staff members that have been a part of the Illinois football program during my time, as they have all made this a great experience for me. I'd like to give a special thanks to Coach Ricker, Coach Cubit and my fellow O-linemen for making this final year a lot of fun. Finally, I'd like to thank the entire Illini nation, as they have helped make my time as an Illini a lot of fun. I am grateful for the love and support from Illini nation during my career, and I will bleed orange and blue forever!
Mathis: I'd first like to thank my parents and my coaches. My parents have supported me throughout the last five years and my coaches have given me a chance to keep playing the game I love. I also want to thank my teammates for all of the memories they have provided me with. Osei: I want to thank God first. then Coach Zook for first giving me the opportunity to play here at the University of Illinois. Without him, I would not be playing here. I want to thank my friends, family and coaches who believed in me over the years. I also want to thank the people who did not believe in me because without them I would not be so motivated to work hard and prove them wrong. Quintana: I would like to thank my teammates. My time playing football has forever molded me. At the end of the day, it wasn't just game day I remember, but the time I spent with them day in and day out. They were a true family away from home, and there was never a dull moment. I would also like to thank my family. Rain or shine, they were always in attendance for the games. Thank you for the support. Russell: I want to thank my parents first and foremost. They have supported me tremendously and always have. I also want to thank Coach Zook for giving me the opportunity to play, and Coach Beckman for seeing what I was capable of and putting me in a position to help the team win. I want to thank all the coaches I have had for everything I have learned and all the things I will take away from this game. I'd like to thank all the teammates that I have shared that locker room with for all the memories and friendships that I will take away from this team.
My wife, my parents, the rest of my family and friends, each teammate I've had, every coach that gave me an opportunity, the Illini fans, Stone Creek Church, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Jason Epperson, and most importantly God for an opportunity of a lifetime.
Wilson: I just want to thank all the coaches that helped me get to this point in my career. Taking the chance to even bring me here, it's such a great opportunity. I have to thank my parents for supporting me over the course of my career. I couldn't go without thanking my moms away from home, Annie and Carla. Lastly, thanks to all the fans and students at this university that have made these last four years the funniest times in my life.