Illini football players scoot around campus

Members of the Illini football team leave their scooters outside Memorial Stadium during football practice. Many members drive their scooters all over campus. Erica Magda

Members of the Illini football team leave their scooters outside Memorial Stadium during football practice. Many members drive their scooters all over campus. Erica Magda

By Alex Symonds

The Illinois football program is undergoing a renovation.

But it’s not the type that you think.

It’s not the cranes and workers involved in the Memorial Stadium construction.

It’s not the constantly ringing phones of head coach Ron Zook and his staff bringing new talent and speed to Champaign.

And it’s not even the grunts and groans of players building muscles in the newly refurbished weight room.

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This renovation is marked by a distinct sound resonating through the football complex – the constant buzz of a 50cc motor.

This is a renovation involving the players, who are ditching their walking shoes and car keys for sunglasses and motor scooters.

That’s right.

Many Illinois football players, thought to be some of the roughest and toughest people on campus, ride motor scooters that have a common top speed of 35 miles per hour.

Defensive lineman Will Davis points out the scooter phenomenon is all about convenience rather than a perceived lack of toughness.

“It’s just a big help,” Davis said. “If you do have a car … you have to worry about parking tickets and things like that but when you have a scooter you can just get to every class.”

Illinois players said the scooter revolution started not too long ago, when former defensive lineman Mike Ware brought the electric radiance of the motor scooter to the Memorial Stadium bike parking area.

From there, one scooter has blossomed into many, creating a plethora of reds, blacks and even yellows.

The yellow comes from freshman running back Mikel LeShoure, who affectionately calls his yellow scooter “Bumblebee.”

He points out that females love a scooter man.

“I think they like it,” LeShoure joked. “They try to get on sometimes. I (let them on) sometimes but sometimes I just ride by. Yeah, they get on back; they’ll be holding my waist and stuff.”

But there’s a somewhat rougher side that comes with the scooter lifestyle. Driving those things is tougher than one might think.

Dealing with buses, cars and bikes on the roads, and bike paths, is something normal for redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jack Cornellaccording to teammates, has unofficially taken on the role of leader of the scooter gang. After a recent scary experience on his scooter, he’s now prepared for a new road element.

“The other day, I had a fly hit me in the face, and I almost fell off it,” Cornell explained. “But I regained control and regained composure and ended up doing pretty good.”

Cornell has earned the respect of his peers and risen to the top of the scooter hierarchy thanks to his moxie to brave the elements.

Come wintertime, he trades in his shorts and sunglasses for a ski mask, coat and gloves so he can keep riding. And that’s something junior place kicker Michael Cklamovski credits to the toughness needed to play in the trenches.

“This is the time of year that it gets rough because you’re riding that thing about 30 miles per hour and it’s 50 degrees outside and it’s so cold,” Cklamovski said. “(Cornell) rides it in the winter when it’s snowing outside, but he’s one of those tough O-linemen, I just kick.”

Cklamovski isn’t the only one who’s leery about roughing it with his scooter in the winter months, LeShoure also showed some resistance when it comes to braving the elements.

“Bumblebee will probably be home in the wintertime,” LeShoure admitted. “I’m not really a fan of driving it through snow or anything like that. I’ll probably be on the bus. I’d rather that than be on my scooter.”

LeShoure is part of a new contingent to the scooter gang – the multiple freshmen and sophomores who have helped the group grow to a colossal size.

Davis, a senior who just joined the scooter ranks, notes the ingenuity of the newcomers.

“I’ve never seen so many scooters here as this year,” Davis said. “Everybody has a scooter. They’re way smarter than us coming in as freshmen because we used to walk everywhere, you used to be tired from walking everywhere. I should have gotten one as a freshman.”

Even though the scooter life is something enjoyed by many, it isn’t enjoyed by all. Junior offensive lineman Jon Asamoah used to ride with two other linemen on the same scooter during his freshman year, noting that the group still moved on the scooter, but that they were “riding low.” He now has taken a different stance on the group.

“I refuse to be associated with that group,” Asamoah joked. “More power to them, but I don’t support the scooter group.”

With the quick rise of the scooter gang, there has even been a questioning of who the real scooter gang leader is. Senior linebacker Brit Miller said his mother doesn’t really allow him to ride and calls himself a “mediator of sorts” between the gang and outsiders.

He now has his guard up after letting it slip who, he claimed, really leads the scooter group behind the veil of Jack Cornell.

“(Football Web site coordinator) Dick Barnes is the undercover leader,” Miller quipped.

“I’m probably going to get in trouble for telling you … but if you see a bunch of guys riding scooters, you better watch out.”

You now have all been warned.

Confirmed members of the scooter gang:

Jack Cornell

redshirt freshman

offensive lineman

Will Davis


defensive lineman

Mike Garrity

redshirt freshman

offensive lineman

Matt Brandabur



Mikel LeShoure


running back

Graham Pocic


offensive lineman

Alex Reavy


wide receiver

Michael Cklamovski



Tyler Sands


offensive lineman

Ryan Sedlacek


offensive lineman