The Illinois basketball team has been devastated with injuries. With each successive man down, coach John Groce has re-stated his team's bulldog mantra:
"Next man up."
Problem is, the team's bench has been running out of men. At one point earlier this month, Illinois only had seven players available. So this week, Groce turned to team manager Ryan Schmidt and asked him to join the team.
Schmidt, a senior who has been the team's manager for four years, couldn't have been more excited.
— Illinois Athletics (@IlliniAthletics) January 23, 2015
— Mark Morris (@momash09) January 23, 2015
Schmidt didn't play Saturday in a 79-71 loss to Minnesota, his first game in uniform.
"It was everything I hoped for," Schmidt told the Chicago Tribune. "I'm thankful for the chance."Although not unheard of, it's rare for team managers to make the big leap onto a team's roster. The team manager for Arkansas-Little Rock completed the feat in 2012, while Tennessee's women's team brought on former head manager Elizabeth Curry in 2007. It's worth pointing out that Schmidt did play high school basketball, and he received some scholarship offers from Division II and III programs. Ultimately, though, the accounting major opted to attend Illinois for the quality of its education. Whether or not Schmidt sees the court at all this season remains to be seen, but if the Illini continue having health issues, he could find himself shouldering a heavy load. You've got to admit, he already has the look down:
So do we have another Rudy in the making? Time will tell, but no one's rooting against Ryan Schmidt.