Asmussen | McDonald never forgets his Illini history

8 hrs ago
CHAMPAIGN — The head coach (Bret Bielema) played at Iowa.
The defensive coordinator (Aaron Henry) went to Wisconsin. The offensive coordinator (Barry Lunney Jr.) attended Arkansas.
Only one member of the current coaching staff played at Illinois: George McDonald, who handles the wide receivers. In three weeks, McDonald welcomes the top Illini receiver in program history back to Memorial Stadium. David Williams is returning to campus for the 40-year anniversary of the 1983 Big Ten championship team.
Williams played a critical role for Mike White’s Rose Bowl qualifiers, leading the team with 69 catches for 958 yards. He went over 1,000 yards during his final two All-American seasons and left Illinois as the only 3,000-yard receiver (3,392) in school history. As Williams often points out, he didn’t get the benefit of a fourth season. Half of the guys in the career Top 10 played four years.
Hard to imagine any player ever approaching the records Williams posted.
He is 809 yards ahead of No. 2 Brandon Lloyd. McDonald played a decade after Williams. He was a receiver for Lou Tepper and Ron Turner from 1995-98, catching 57 passes for 589 yards and four scores.
The current Illini know McDonald’s history with the program.
“I didn’t play very much,” McDonald said, “but I played a little bit.”
McDonald was an excellent kick returner. He remains 10th on the school’s carer list with 1,276 yards. Who is at the top of the list? That would be Red Grange, the legend with the statue. Good company for McDonald.
Two-sport standoutMcDonald ran track at Illinois, too, setting the school record in the 60-yard dash.
He reminds the current guys he coaches that he could run.
“I’ll tell them to go over to the Armory and look at my Big Ten title,” McDonald said. “I think they know the pride that I have in the program and what it means to me to coach here and put a good product on the field. They understand how much I care about this university and what the university has done for me.”
It is a life lesson that he passes on to the players.
“When we go out on the field, we want to respect not only ourselves and the current team, but the former players who have played here also,” McDonald said. “Me being in the room gives them that underlying, ‘Hey, we’re playing for something that’s bigger than us.’”
McDonald looks forward to seeing Williams in person. And having his players talk to the College Football Hall of Famer.
“It’s awesome,” McDonald said. “Any time you can bring back former players and they can see the success that other guys have, it just gives them a vision of, ‘That’s what we want to accomplish.’”
There is a picture of Williams in the receivers room.
“I’ve heard a lot of great things about him,” McDonald said. “He’s one guy I’m really excited to meet when he comes back. He did it at a high level.”
The next WilliamsFollowing in the footsteps of David Williams, Isaiah Williams is likely to enter the school’s carer Top 10 for receiving yards this season. Not bad for a guy relatively new to the position.
Despite spending his first two years at quarterback, Isaiah Williams has 132 career catches for 1,249 yards.
If Williams is able to top his 2022 numbers (715) by a few yards, he will become Illinois’ ninth receiver with 2,000 career yards.
McDonald is an Isaiah Williams fan.
“Last year, he proved he’s probably one of the better receivers in the conference,” McDonald said. “As a competitor, now you’re trying to prove you’re one of the better receivers in the country.
“Last year doesn’t predict that’s going to happen this year, but I think he’s shown he can be a high-level player. I think he knows he can change the game with the ball in his hands and use his speed. He has all the tools and he’s put in all the work.”

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