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Illinois Says Goodbye to Nathan Scheelhause; Will an NFL Team Say Hello?

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Illinois Fighting Illini will be wishing their longtime quarterback farewell now that his senior season has come to an end. Upon reflections, it has been a long road for the young man from Kansas City Missouri who enrolled at Illinois with very high aspirations. Nathan Scheelhause may have had a rocky career in terms of wins and losses but he has most definitely won over the hearts of the Illini faithful with his gutsy play and leadership style.

When Scheelhause was recruited by then head coach Ron Zook he was a very highly touted quarterback who seemed very well fit to play the style of football that coach Zook intended for his Illini to play. Scheelhause was a high energy, high intensity quarterback who would be a true challenge for defenses to contain. Scheelhause was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. Scheelhause was so committed to the University of Illinois that it took him one recruiting visit make the university his school of choice. Efforts were made by other Big 10 schools like Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa Hawkeyes but a more concentrated effort was made by Big 12 schools who were more committed to running a spread style offense like the Oklahoma Sooners and the Missouri Tigers who have since joined the SEC. The Nebraska Cornhuskers may have made the strongest push for Scheelhause. Scheelhause also declined interest from Stanford; he had his eyes on one school, Illinois.

The young quarterback was set to replace Illinois quarterback Juice Williams whose ability to move the ball with his feet and arm had wowed fans throughout his time at Illinois. In his freshman campaign Scheelhause may have had his most impressive season as he was named freshman of the week an astounding six times. Scheelhause started all 13 games for the Illini and threw for 1,825 yards that year. He also rushed for an Illinois freshman record 868 yards averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Scheelhause started all 13 games again his sophomore season and had another stellar year. The Illini made a bowl game in both of Scheelhause’s first two seasons and they were victorious in both of their appearances.

Scheelhause’s fiery leadership and intelligence may be missed more than his pure quarterbacking abilities. Speed and elusiveness were always evident in Scheelhause’s arsenal but his intelligence and willingness to lead his team through adversity is what set him apart from others in his time at Illinois. It was obvious that the switch from head coach Ron Zook who recruited the young quarterback to Tim Beckman had an effect on the team but Scheelhause maintained his composure and showed up to lead his team each week. Scheelhause finished his career as the MVP of his team for the 2013 football season.

Why was Scheelhause so valuable to his team? He led by example through his work on and off the field, earning many accolades throughout his career for his community service projects. He also earned the Faculty Award at Illinois for his impressive performance in the classroom. Also Scheelhause also was consistent throughout his career battering through pain and adversity to be there for his team. Not only was he reliable but also he put up big numbers on a regular basis, throwing for under 200 yards only three times his senior season.

It is unclear what Scheelhause’s career may look like post Illinois. It is a near certainty that the young man will succeed as that is all he seems to do. He is currently the 30th ranked quarterback by CBS sports but his body of work may earn him a chance to play for an NFL team. Given the opportunity he will definitely do the most with it.