Scott Studwell is considered one of the all-time great linebackers at Illinois. The Evansville athlete played under Bob Blackman and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings. He enjoyed a 12 year pro career and has been on the team payroll ever since.
Studwell doesn't get back to Champaign often, but he enjoys his visits. As Director of College Scouting for the Vikings he has more important things to do.
"I get through here probably two times a year. Typically it's business related. I don't have a lot of time to socialize while I'm here. I've got some good friends still in town. It's always fun to come back."
Of course, each trip brings back fond memories.
"Yeah it sure does. Obviously things have changed a little bit since I was here."
The new construction in the North end zone and on the West side of Memorial Stadium are positive improvements.
"It's beautiful. This has always been a great stadium. It's always been a fun place to play and watch a game. But this is a tremendous addition, it really is.
"It's nice to see them try to get the program back on its feet. They've put a lot of time, money and effort into putting a good product on the field. Hopefully they can get it done."
He was drafted in the 9th round but found opportunity in Minnesota. He was asked if he dreamed of playing pro ball.
"You never know. You want the opportunity. I was disappointed I didn't get drafted higher, but to me it's being at the right place at the right time. There was a need for a linebacker at Minnesota when I first got there. I was able to play and stay healthy for a long time.
"I wouldn't say it's a dream come true, but for me it's been almost a surreal experience. I've been with the team for 34 years now, so it's been a pretty good run."
Studwell may have been describing himself when discussing the traits he looks for in potential pro athletes.
"There's a lot more to it than just athletic ability. The hardest thing for us to measure is a player's heart and his football character. You can see production on the field. Whether it's based on athleticm or his want-to, those are things that are hard to read at times. Guys who make plays at this level typically can make plays in our league as well."
He was kept busy in his evaluations Saturday. There were many top athletes as highly-ranked Ohio State visited the Illini.
"Yeah on both sides of the ball. Obviously, Ohio State's probably got bigger numbers as far as their senior class is concerned. But Illinois has a few prospects we're looking at. With Big 10 football, there's always good players."
While there were a number of top underclassmen, Studwell limited his prospect list to players in their last seasons.
"Seniors is all we look at right now. We have a hard enough time figuring out the seniors. We stay focused on those guys, and once the juniors declare we'll start focusing on the juniors as well."
Studwell still roots for his former team even though the last decade shows some lean times. He reminded how much effect limitations on head coach recruiting had the last few years.
"It's been a little lean, and it's hard. They've got to find a way to get over the hump. I think it's probably hurt them a little bit that Coach Zook can't get out and recruit as much as he used to be able to do.
"They've just got to keep developing the young players and get some breaks and win some close games. If they can do that, then I think they'll be okay."