Column: The Jack-Hammer

By Zachary Schuster

If I learned one thing this break, it’s that everyone and their sister, mother and mother’s sister are Illini basketball fans this year. The Fighting Illini are ranked No. 1 in the country, and the bandwagon is alive and kicking. Thus, I think it’s fair to say that a column about our Illini heroes is fair game for the Opinions section. However, if you are one of those smarmy, faux-intellectual types who are too good for sports, well then, read something else.

Illini stars such as Dee Brown, Deron Williams and Luther Head have been gathering praise from across the country. Heck, even notorious ACC-lover Dick Vitale has jumped on the Illini bandwagon and, in all likelihood, will be kissing Illini butt the rest of the season. Despite all this attention, my favorite player on the Illini is still often overlooked by Vitale and pretty much everyone else. I’m talking, of course, about number 50, Big Jack Ingram. This column is my tribute to my favorite 6’10” Texan engineer basketball star.

I’ve always felt like some players on my favorite teams get stuck in the shadows of the more well-known stars. I take it upon myself to right this wrong with my allegiances. My favorite Illini used to be Nick “The Chainsaw” Smith. Now I give my heart to Big Jack since Nick has gone mainstream with his very own nickname and Facebook fan club.

The biggest reason for my Jack Ingram fandom is that, like myself, Big Jack is an engineer. Every time he steps on the floor he is representing every engineer who went straight to Engineering Hall after the Wake Forest game to work on homework, instead of partying with the rest of the Illini nation on Green Street. He would be perfect for one of those student-athlete commercials: “Yeah, I celebrated our beatdown of Wake Forest…with a bottle of Mountain Dew and a system of electrical circuits.” His electrical and computer engineering background also guarantees that he can score, rebound, and if the need arises, fix the scoreboard at Assembly Hall. I guess you could say he’s the “Jack” of all trades.

While Big Jack possesses a higher GPA than Michigan’s entire starting lineup, he also has basketball skills that amplify the Illini on offense and defense. I think it must be the brutal engineering curriculum that prepares him for battle in the Big Ten trenches. You’re not going to find Big Jack running the fast break looking pretty in his headband and corn rows like Dee Brown or throwing down alley-oops and shooting the three like Luther Head. Oh no, he’s down in the paint resisting the opponent’s offense by battling for rebounds and throwing elbows around. A blue-collar nature like this could have only been acquired in the mean classrooms of the University of Illinois’ College of Engineering.

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The one thing Jack Ingram is missing is a nickname. Every basketball star needs to have a nickname. The Illini already have players with monkiers such as “The One Man Fastbreak,” “The Chainsaw,” “The Minister” and “Fred,” so obviously Big Jack is going to need something equally as good. I’m thinking Jack “The Jackhammer” Ingram. It appeals Jack’s blue-collar engineering nature, and it is a nice complement to Nick’s “Chainsaw.” Until someone thinks of something better, I eagerly anticipate the “Jackhammer” chants hammering through Assembly Hall.

So Illini fans, next time you’re watching our orange and blue heroes, take some time to root for the engineer who puts both student and athlete in student-athlete. There’s no need to root for the rest of the team to get in foul trouble so Big Jack can get some playing time like I do, but every electrifying cheer of support helps our tall Texan in his efforts to engineer an NCAA Championship for the Illini.

Zachary Schuster is a senior in engineering. He would like to thank Sal for his help with this racket. He can be reached at [email protected].