Former Walk-on Linquist Helps Anchor Line

Recruiting superstars is the name of the game for major colleges wishing to compete for National Championships. Bring in a few difference makers, and you have a chance. But a football team also requires roll players who provide a firm foundation for the rest, guys who will do the grunt work without complaint. At Illinois, there is no better example of this than former walkon Dave Lindquist.

A junior from Highland Park, Lindquist starts at defensive tackle for the Illini. Dave earned 11 letters in high school, three in football and four each in hockey and lacrosse. He was an honorable mention All-Stater in football, but when it came time for selecting a college, there were few takers.

"I had a scholarship at Eastern Illinois if I wanted to, but the biggest thing I wanted was to play Big Ten football. I had this opportunity, and I had to take it."

You see, Lindquist had a dream, a dream that is just now beginning to come to fruition.

"My dad played at Michigan State, so it was like, I wanted to be like him and do what he does. But I wanted to go somewhere I could have a chance to play and have a good chance of winning. Illinois was a place willing to give me a shot, so I'm here and it's worked out."

Dave showed promise as a redshirt freshman, much more than the typical walkon. And Illinois was hurting for defensive tackles, so he received some early chances and did well. Last year as a sophomore second stringer, he led the entire Big Ten with four fumble recoveries. He was named Illinois' Most Improved Player.

Lindquist marvels at the turnaround he's experienced in his time at Illinois.

"It's a totally different ball game for me. It's great to be on a team now where the guys are really pushing the league, everyone's trying to step up and win the game every week. When I was a freshman I was a redshirt, and I couldn't do anything about the games, just sit on the sideline. But now I'm out there playing, and it's a lot of fun, and we just want to keep this on a roll."

Lindquist plays hurt. He suffered a bruised thigh in the Syracuse game, and a Penn State player rolled up on his leg, straining his knee. But he plays through any pain without complaint.

"It's week to week, and it depends on how serious it is. Some weeks you're banged up and you have to go in for treatment every day to get things going. But sometimes it's just a few nicks and bruises here and there, and you can get through it pretty fast. You can get hurt all you want, but as soon as that ball's put down on the field, you want to play some defense."

Life as a defensive tackle can be tough. Besides the injuries, there is also the problem of butting heads with 300 pound offensive linemen every play. And when a team like Wisconsin goes into 'max-protect' to prevent a pass rush, defensive linemen can become frustrated.

"It was tough. What we did was schemed a little bit. We tried to shift a nose guard to inside out the guard so we could play the run a little bit better. The problem with that is that on a pass you always get double-teamed by the center and the guard, making it hard to get some heat. It's frustrating, but you've just got to work through it and try to get a rush, and things will work out."

Just like his defensive line mates, Lindquist has great respect for his position coach Tom Sims.

"Coach Sims makes us work. What I like is he makes you like to play football. A lot of times you're beat up, you're tired, but he's joking around with you, getting you loose and ready to play. It's just a good atmosphere out here. "

Dave has a first hand view of the Illini offensive linemen because he works against them every day in practice. He has great respect for their talent and improvement.

"Our offensive line is night and day from when I first got here to now. When they come off they try to hit you and stick you and move you off the line. That's another thing about Coach Sims, he's teaching great technique. So when we play good technique and they play good technique, you've got some good guys up front."

Illinois lacked energy against Iowa and did not perform at their highest level. So perhaps it is good to remember what it was like during their five game winning streak. Speaking before the Iowa game, Lindquist bubbled over with excitement about how his team was playing.

"People are making big plays when they need to be made. It's not just our defense. Our offense is playing great. Rashard's running the ball, Juice is passing real well, Eddie's stepping in there and doing some great things. Collectively as a team, we're playing great."

Illinois has a large senior class that is providing excellent leadership. Next year, Lindquist will be one of the ones charged with leading the Illini to bigger and better things. And he is prepared for that challenge.

"Even now, some guys who are sophomores and juniors and even freshmen are really stepping up and being vocal. The biggest thing is we have guys who lead by example. Next year, if we can carry that through with the guys who are younger, then next year is going to be fun."

But let's say the Illini reach their goal of playing in a quality bowl game this year. Will it be more difficult to generate the hunger necessary to work hard and continue the success into the future?

"We have a whole year before we can play football again. So all that time you just build up anger and hunger, and we just want to get out there. We work our butts off in the weight room and on the field in the offseason, so we've got to take that as motivation and blow it out next year and really try to hit people again."

Lindquist is a speech communcations major, which could lead to a number of career opportunities. But he isn't quite ready to finalize his plans.

"As long as I can play football, I'm going to try to do that. It's a great major from a great school, so I figure I can get into grad school somewhere. Then I can figure what I want to do."

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