The 90 Illini #1: Terry Hawthorne
6'-0", 190 lbs.
Senior (on scholarship, 2 years to play 1)
East St. Louis HS / East St. Louis, Illinois
ALE Ranking last year: #9
ALE Ranking in 2010: #2
ALE Ranking in 2009: #35
What I Know About Him:
I almost changed it. I put together this list in early June. At the time, I fully expected Camp Rantoul reports of Hawthorne returning punts, and returning kickoffs, and playing cornerback, and playing receiver, and basically becoming everything Black Cat was born to do. This team desperately needs a playmaker, and Hawthorne was primed to be that guy on both sides of the ball. And special teams.
But then Tommy Davis transferred in to be our kick returner. And when reports came out about a Hawthorne ankle injury in camp, and how the coaching staff was worried about his health, and finally quotes from Tim Beckman saying he wasn't going to use Hawthorne anywhere but corner "for the first few weeks" to make sure he's healthy, well, I was prepared to do what I did last year: slide Hawthorne down the list due to injury concerns.
But I decided against it. I decided to leave him #1. Because this is it. This is his final season. This is the last chance for my dream of Janet Jackson's Black Cat through the speakers. The first words of the very first ALE post (the day Hawthorne signed) said the following:
I get a Deron Williams vibe from Terry Hawthorne. Part of a tandem of top recruits at his school, all the way until the end of his senior season the other guy was hyped more, and near the end articles like “you know, Terry Hawthorne might be the best player in the entire Midwest” start popping up.
I’ve said this before, but I think our top three recruits this decade are as follows:
1. Rashard Mendenhall
2. Arrelious Benn
3. Terry Hawthorne
So if those were the first words here, how could I not rank him #1 as a senior? He caught a touchdown pass in the spring game. He had 40% of our season punt return yards last year in the one game he returned punts. Injuries be damned, Hawthorne is ready to be The Guy.
What I Expect From Him:
I'm pushing right past the injury thing. Ignoring it, really. I'm going to pretend I didn't even hear the word "ankle" this August. Hawthorne is ready to step into his destiny. Kick returns, interception returns, and receptions.
We find ourselves trailing Penn State by four and we need one final drive? Insert Hawthorne and let him play the role of Derek Moye. We're tied with Purdue late and we force them to punt deep in their own zone? I want Hawthorne returning that kick. He has 12 (13? FOURTEEN?) games remaining in an Illini uniform, and I want to see us finally use our most athletic player on both sides of the ball.
Ok, fine, say the ankle is an issue and he only plays cornerback. Well then I have another goal: lead the Big Ten in interceptions. We're due for a few tipped interceptions to fall our way (more on that late tonight in the SOC post), so I want them floating to Hawthorne. He turned around the bowl game with a pick-six, I want to get greedy and ask for two this fall.
Most of all, I want this kid to go out on top. He's skilled beyond belief, is football-fast in pads, and has a knack for iconic plays (Roy Roundtree rundown, KFHB interception). Every part of me wants to see him go out with an iconic senior season. With at least one punt return. With Black Cat playing on the speakers.