Speaking Up

Terry Hawthorne has progressed as a vocal leader during this trying football season.

CHAMPAIGN - Following Saturday's 52-22 loss to Ohio State, Terry Hawthorne stood up in the locker room and told his teammates he wasn't going to quit.

Although the team had just lost it's sixth consecutive game, signaling no chance for a bowl bid, Hawthorne said he was going to battle.

"I told everybody, 'if y'all aren't going to keep fighting with me y'all can watch me.' " he said.

Before the game the senior cornerback was just as vocal. Finally healthy, Hawthorne was inserted on the kickoff team before the Indiana game. Against Ohio State, knowing the offense would need help with field position, he pleaded with his blockers to provide a crease to run through.

"All I did, I just kept telling the kick return team, 'just put a body on a body,' " he said.

He finished the game with a team-high 10 tackles and had 158 yards on six kickoffs, including a season-long 45-yard return.

The key, as it has been throughout his career, has been good health.

After suffering a concussion and leaving on a stretcher in an ambulance against Wisconsin, Hawthorne missed the Michigan game and took the bye week to rest both his mind and body. He denies an ankle injury occurred in August, but coach Tim Beckman revealed that Hawthorne wasn't healthy in the month of September. That changed the way he was used.

"Terry being dinged up a little bit has kind of put some things that we wanted to do with Terry on the back burner," Beckman said. "Putting him on the offensive side of the ball a little bit, making him more involved in our return game, which I think hurt Terry because Terry wants to be healthy and do those things for this football team."

Hawthorne's stellar play last weekend wasn't surprising. When healthy, he's shown signs of a player talked about as having NFL potential, a 6-foot, 190-pound defensive back that can tackle, catch and has elite speed.

The recent lack of hesitation to speak his mind, however, was an unanticipated aspect of his game.

He was a chief organizer of the players-only meeting prior to the Wisconsin game, and he's been unafraid to deliver messages after each loss.

Generally soft-spoken in front of the media, vocally leading is something he didn't do much of in the past.

"I'm very proud of Terry," Beckman said. "A lot was put on Terry's plate to be the best player Terry could be, be the best leader Terry could be. You know, to be a vocal leader, to be a practice leader, to be an inspirational leader, all those types of things were asked of Terry Hawthorne."

He's answered the call from the coaching staff despite the lack of wins and struggles with injuries.

Sure, times are tough now, Hawthorne said, but he compares it to 2009 (3-9 record) and says he hasn't lost confidence in himself.

"Things happen, so just move on from it. It's time for me to actually just step up and lead my teammates and bring these guys with me," he said.

"It feels good for me going out there and playing with the ability I know I can."

Clearly the season hasn't gone according to plan, not for a player attempting to play his way into high draft pick status. The adversity hit Hawthorne in every way, but he fought back through personal growth. That might not be something many will remember about this season years from now, but it has left an impression on those closest to him.

"He does exactly what you need to do as a senior, as a leader and as a person that wants to be successful, in my opinion," Beckman said.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories