Questions with football’s Rashard Mendenhall

Beck Diefenbach

Beck Diefenbach

By Jason Grodsky

Following Illinois football practice on Tuesday, the Daily Illini caught up with sophomore running back Rashard Mendenhall to talk about the Illini’s Big Ten opener against Iowa, his role as a part of the Illinois three-headed rushing attack and what it’s like being on the same team as his brother, Walter.

Question: How’s practice going so far this week in preparation for the Big Ten opener against Iowa?

Answer: Practice was a little sloppier today than what we would have liked, but everybody is still working hard and trying to get better.

Q: What’s the attitude in the locker room and on the practice field after last weekend’s loss?

A: Everybody is out here trying to start with a fresh and clean slate, and we’re feeling good. Going into the Big Ten everyone is just trying to get better and prepare for the Big Ten.

Q: With the start of the Big Ten season on Saturday, which team in the Big Ten are you most looking forward to playing and why?

A: There really isn’t one specific team. Right now it’s Iowa. It’s the first game of the Big Ten season, and we’re going to try and make a statement. We’re all just focused on Iowa.

Q:Is there a different feeling out on the field when you’re playing a Big Ten opponent as opposed to a non-conference foe?

A: Yeah, there is definitely a different feeling. It is almost like a rivalry every week. These are the games that matter the most and the games that will decide who finishes where. Every game we play from now on is going to be serious and a battle.

Q: How has playing with and sharing touches with Pierre Thomas and E.B. Halsey helped you as a running back since you arrived last season?

A: They have helped me out a lot since I’ve gotten here. It’s like they have taken me in like a little brother. They have been pushing me and helping me adapt and learn ever since I have been here.

Q: What’s it like playing with and having your brother, Walter, on the team?

A: My brother is my best friend. He’s someone I can talk to and has always had a shoulder that I can lean on. When he sees something out on the field, he tells me about it and just provides me with another point of view.

Q: What kind of influence did he have on you coming to Illinois, and what kind of influence has he (Walter) had on you since you’ve been here?

A: When we were getting ready to leave high school, we knew we wanted to go to the same place together. So when he made the decision to come here, it was more he didn’t make it alone, we made the decision together.

Q: What has been his (Walter’s) biggest influence on you on the field and off the field?

A: Off the field, he is almost like my dad. I tend to forget about a lot of things, so he is always helping remind me to do certain things. On the field, he mainly tells me things that he is seeing that I sometimes won’t see and may overlook.