Home > Uncategorized > Rashard Mendenhall keeps tabs on Illini, Leshoure despite disconnect with Zook

Rashard Mendenhall keeps tabs on Illini, Leshoure despite disconnect with Zook

Rashard Mendenhall didn’t leave the Illinois football program on the best of terms, but the Pittsburgh Steelers running back said he keeps tabs on Illini athletics, including the football team.

“My relationship with the school is cool. My relationship with the school has always been cool,” Mendenhall said on the “Tay and J Show” on 93.5, 95.3 ConnectFM on Wednesday. “I don’t have any problems with (Illinois coach Ron) Zook or nothing like that. It was just the way things were run around there it was just tough and coming out. As far as right now, they just won their bowl game. I hope everything’s good and going well with them, but I still love the University of Illinois.”

After entering the NFL Draft after his junior season in 2008, Mendenhall and Zook – who recently completed his sixth season at Illinois -experienced a falling out when Mendenhall decided to enter the NFL Draft. He was selected by the Steelers with the 23rd overall pick.

“To tell you the truth, as long as Ron Zook is there it will be hard for me to support the University of Illinois football team,” Mendenhall said in a quote to The News-Gazette in 2008.

But Mendenhall said he keeps up with the Illini football team “a little bit.”

“That being my alma mater, you like to see things and catch some of the games, not just with football but other sports and people you went to school with it,” Mendenhall said Wednesday. “It’s cool to keep an eye or ear or two on it a little bit.”

Former Illini running back Mikel Leshoure received a text message from Mendenhall after the junior broke Mendenhall’s single-season rushing record during the Illini’s 38-14 Texas Bowl win over Baylor on Dec. 29.

“Records were made to be broken,” Mendenhall said. “I was glad to see him get it. That’s something he can cherish. He’s going to be in the same position when someone breaks his (record).”

Mendenhall, a back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher in the NFL, supported Leshoure’s decision to enter the NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining.

“I think he made the right decision,” Mendenhall said. “I feel like he did everything he can at that level to step out and test the waters. His dream’s right in front of him, so I think it makes sense for him to go out and get it.

“He’s a downhill runner. He’s just a natural runner. He’s got a good feel for the game and just where to fit things. So I think whatever system he’s in he can figure it out because he’s a natural runner and he’s instinctive.”

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