Illini Preparations Continue in South Florida for Bowl


Dec. 27, 1999

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. - Under the bright, high 70s sun, it was business as usual for the University of Illinois football team at its Nova High School practice site.

On their second day of practice in Florida, the Fighting Illini went through the regular drills, involving the individual, team and special teams workouts. The team participated in 7-on-7 drills and concluded with senior Neil Rackers splitting the uprights on a series of field goals.

Also for the second straight day, the Illini had some well-known visitors drop by practice. Yesterday, Miami Dolphins' assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt visited Coach Turner, who was a member of Wannstedt's staff with the Chicago Bears. Today, former Pitt quarterback John Congemi paid Turner a visit. Turner was Congemi's quarterbacks coach when the two were with the Panthers.

With the bowl game in his own backyard, it would be expected Jameel Cook would have relatives come out to view practice. Cook failed to mention his famous cousins from a pair of WB hit shows would be in attendance. From Sister Sister, Tai and Tamara came out to see the sophomore fullback, as well as cousin Tahj from The Smart Guy. The twins Tai and Tamara also make their claim to fame by starring in Old Navy commercials.

While the Illini had special people at their practice, seven of the Orange and Blue were special visitors at Joe Dimaggio's Children Hospital. Captains Rackers, Steve Havard and Ray Redziniak were joined by Mike McGee, Josh Whitman and Mike O'Brien at the hospital. The players chatted with the children and signed Bowl and UI media guides.

"When you see a group of kids like this, some of them fighting for their lives, it makes you realize how lucky we really are," said senior defensive tackle Mike McGee. "It makes you appreciate all the things we have going for us."

Following the Ron Turner Show on the Illini Sports Netowrk, the team went off to Pro Player Stadium for the Monday Night Football matchup between the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. The Illini were hoping to witness one of their very own in action, J.P. Machado, who is on the Jets' travel roster. Machado was a letterwinner at Illinois from 1996-98.