Back in Champaign, George McDonald ready to help turn program around


CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — It’s been decades since George McDonald has worn Orange and Blue in Memorial Stadium, but when he coached his first practice there, the memories came flooding back.

“It was a rush of emotions,” says the new assistant head coach. “You just have flashbacks of these moments on the field, and experiences on the field, and it was special.”

McDonald played for Illinois in the 90’s, leading the Big Ten in kickoff return yards in 1996. The wide receivers coach says he’s grateful to have his career come full circle under new head coach Bret Bielema, and work in an athletic department led by his former teammate Josh Whitman.

“I feel like my blood is in the bricks,” says McDonald. “And I really want to help us get to where we want to go.”

A lot has changed since McDonald was last on campus, most notably the new football facility. But the biggest change he’s hoping to see is on the field. Since his playing career ended in 1998, the program has only seen five winning seasons.

“I understand the history, the experiences from me being on that turf,” says McDonald. “The different guys that’ve played next to me on that turf.”

“He’s very proud of this university and what it means, and how it made him today,” says Bielema. “To bring him as an assistant head coach he’ll help me a lot with player development.”

When McDonald was a player he saw just 10 wins in his career, but starting this fall will be a second chance for him help turn the program around.

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