If Illinois coach Ron Zook needs help in getting his message across, he likely calls Dr. Kevin Elko. The motivational speaker attempts to build self-confidence, increase focus and clarity on gameday strategies and tactics while also increasing performance levels. The Illini listen to a taped message from Elko each week.
CHAMPAIGN -- If Illinois coach Ron Zook needs help in getting his message across, he likely calls Dr. Kevin Elko.
The motivational speaker attempts to build self-confidence, increase focus and clarity on gameday strategies and tactics while also increasing performance levels. The Illini listen to a taped message from Elko each week.
"It's definitely good stuff,'' said quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. "It's nothing I've ever done before last year.''
The Illini need a little work on their confidence. Riding a two-game losing streak, Illinois (6-2 overall, 2-2 in the Big Ten) plays at No. 21 Penn State (7-1, 4-0) Saturday.
Zook first met Elko while working as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"The Steelers never draft a guy unless he's talked to them,'' Zook said. "He's been a good friend of mine for years.''
Most of Elko's messages come via phone, Scheelhaase said, such as, "Keep the main thing the main thing,'' and, "Fight weary.''
Elko was on campus to speak with the Illini earlier this season. According to his website, Elko was given national championship rings by LSU and Miami. He's also worked with Alabama, Nebraska, Pittsburgh and Rutgers. After claiming his team tightened up in losses to Ohio State and Purdue, Zook said the Illini will loosen up in Happy Valley.
"We're going to go out there, play loose and let it roll,'' Zook said.
NAME GAME: It's hard to say just how much Penn State coach Joe Paterno does each week. The 84-year-old legend tied Eddie Robinson for the most victories in Division I with 408.
But his demeanor during press conference left everyone wondering how much he knows about details, such as the name of the Illini quarterback or just his jersey number.
"Number for sure,'' Scheelhaase said. "Maybe he knows my name. I'll try to introduce myself. I didn't get a chance after the game last year. It's not a big deal to me. If I do, I'll make sure I'll tell him my name.''
Zook was 12 when Paterno took over as Penn State head coach in 1966.
When Illini linebacker Jonathan Brown is 84, "I hope I'm retired on the beach somewhere,'' he said.
NOTABLE: Illini defensive end Whitney Mercilus leads the nation with 10 sacks and ranks second with five forced fumbles. ... In Big Ten play, Scheelhaase leads the league in total offense at 293.8 yards per game.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.