It took three years, but junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase finally got Terry Hawthorne on his side of the ball for Illinois football.
“I used to lobby a lot,” Scheelhaase said. “It may have taken three years, but I guess I’ll finally get the chance.”
In addition to his responsibilities as a starting cornerback, Hawthorne has seen time at the X wide receiver position in spring practices.
“It’s going pretty decent,” Hawthorne said. “I’m excited to go back and try to help (Scheelhaase) out, try to help some of the other receivers out.”
With the departure of last year’s leading receiver A.J. Jenkins, Hawthorne will be the only senior wide receiver aside from walk-on James Hallendorf, who has never appeared in a game for the Illini.
“Obviously, we definitely are low depth-wise there,” Scheelhaase said. “It will be nice to get him out there and see what he can do.”
Hawthorne is no stranger to receiving. He was the No. 1 overall recruit out of Illinois and the No. 6 wide receiver recruit nationally coming out of East St. Louis High School in 2009, according to Rivals.com. He logged 1,009 receiving yards and scored 28 touchdowns as a senior in high school but has been at cornerback full-time for the Illini.
He said that while he is content on defense, he has wanted to play receiver since he arrived at Illinois.
“Once I switched over to defense, I still wanted to play it, but at the same time I haven’t played it in three years,” he said. “I kind of lost a bit of an edge from that.”
Hawthorne said the move originated in an early meeting with new head coach Tim Beckman.
“I kind of told him my background, me coming in as an All-American receiver and things like that,” Hawthorne said. “He was like: ‘It’s a possibility that we can give you a shot at receiver and cornerback. Whatever you can do to help the team.’”
Hawthorne was a key component to an Illinois defense that ranked seventh in the nation last season. He recorded 60 tackles and led the team in interceptions and pass deflections with three and 11, respectively. Beckman said he hasn’t decided how Hawthorne’s time will be split between the positions in the fall.
“I just think that that’s something he’s capable of doing,” Beckman said. “He’s played defensive back here, he’s played cornerback here. He’s been showing that, he can do that, so we’re gonna give him the opportunity.”