O'Toole Amid a Series of Firsts

Reilly O'Toole had never been to Ireland before May -- he'd never had the same offensive playbook for back-to-back summers, either.

Throw out any college football situation or circumstance. There's a good chance Reilly O'Toole can strike it off the been-there, done-that list.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound quarterback from Wheaton, Ill., has won games, lost others. Started and watched as the back-up. Been to a bowl. Spent December at home. Had a coach. Coach got fired. Adjusted to a new coach. You could keep going.

But here's a new one for O'Toole — working with the same playbook two summers in a row.

"Every year has always been kind of difficult because we've had a new offense coming in," he said.

It was Paul Petrino in 2011. The Chris Beatty-Billy Gonzales Experiment the following summer. And then Bill Cubit came to town last spring.

Now a senior, O'Toole is one of the leaders in charge of directing workouts in June and July. Thanks to his own knowledge and experience with Cubit's offense, O'Toole says the workouts should be better than he's experienced in the past.

It doesn't hurt that Cubit has helped O'Toole on a personal level, either.

"He's a great guy to be around," O'Toole said. "Great coach, just an even better person. I've learned a lot from him this last year. I've grown up a lot, like maturity-wise, and most of it is because of him. He's a fun guy to be around. He knows his stuff. He gets the best out of each and every one of us."

O'Toole recently knocked another never-before-done off the list, too. He visited where his great-great-grandparents once lived — Ireland. His appreciation makes good sense given his last name, but traveling across the Atlantic meant a lot to O'Toole, especially since his parents went with him.

"It was pretty incredible," he said.

Keeping with the theme — another first time for O'Toole will also be a last time. With Nathan Scheelhaase gone, O'Toole is the oldest guy in the quarterback room, the senior statesman. That means more responsibility, more duties, more attention to detail.

"It was kind of weird because… everybody talks, but I just feel like I have to be a more vocal guy," he said. "It took some getting used to, a couple meetings, but now it's fun. I can't believe it's my last year."

O'Toole thought his high school career ended much too quickly. He says college has zipped by two times faster. And even though he's started a few games (eight career touchdowns, nine interceptions), this is the first time the job could actually be his. The starting quarterback battle, joined by Wes Lunt and Aaron Bailey — comprised most of the media talk and fan buzz during spring. O'Toole swears nothing has changed.

"Honestly my mindset hasn't changed from when I first stepped on campus," O'Toole said. "Even if I was named the starter or if it was Wes or Aaron, my mindset isn't going to change. I'm going to help the team win games as best I can, whether that's being the starting quarterback or being a backup helping us anywhere else. I just want to win games. I think it's something to talk about in the media. Obviously the starting quarterback anywhere and then having the three quarterback be from Illinois adds on to it. It's real fun though. It's real fun being with those guys. It really doesn't make it weird or create tension between any of us."

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