Remember Eddie McGee, the Fighting Illini football player who threw a 51-yard touchdown pass in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2008? The quarterback/receiver redshirted in 2006 and played four years from 2007-10. We’ll take a look back at the career of a player Illini fans fondly remember.
Eddie McGee backed up Juice Williams and was on campus with the former Chicago Vocational product for three of Juice’s four years in Champaign.
A moment Eddie McGee will remember for the rest of his life came his redshirt freshman year when the Illini reached the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1983. In garbage time in that game, the Illini down 49-10 to the USC Trojans, Eddie McGee threw this dart to Arrelious Benn.
It’s one thing to dream about playing in the Rose Bowl; it’s a whole other thing to throw a touchdown pass in the Granddaddy of Them All.
During that 2007 season, Eddie McGee came to be known — as this St. Louis Dispatch article reminds us — as a closer. McGee would often come in for Juice Williams during brief spells of games that year, late in games in fourth quarters when it appeared Juice was having trouble hanging onto leads. McGee still had the chance to play some quarterback, and while it was clear he wasn’t the answer, there was certainly ways in which he could contribute positively to the Illini offense. Juice was an inconsistent passer during the entire 2007 campaign, except for the famous shocker in Columbus that season. Eddie McGee was a security blanket and a critical, albeit small part of the Rose Bowl campaign.
Let’s not forget the 2007 game against Missouri in St. Louis. Juice Williams suffered what appeared to be a concussion in the second quarter in the Braggin’ Rights contest. Illinois was down 23-6 at halftime and the team needed a spark. Eddie McGee played quarterback the rest of the way and led a furious comeback against the Tigers who would finish the 2007 season ranked #4 in the nation. McGee finished the game 17/31 for 257 yards with a touchdown pass and two interceptions. He had 23 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The Illini ended up losing the game 40-34.
Juice Williams graduated after the 2009 season, putting Eddie McGee in line start in his senior season, but in 2010, Eddie McGee was not the starting quarterback. That job went to true freshman Nathan Scheelhaase, who himself put up some pretty gaudy numbers that 2010 season.
McGee was not bitter about losing the potential starting quarterback job to a true freshman, even though he was three years older and more experienced than the guy taking his projected place. The fact that McGee was not the QB1 didn’t deter him or force him to lose faith in the program. The redshirt senior was a major part of Illinois getting back to a bowl game in 2010.
2010 was a solid year for Illinois Football. The team finished 7-6 and thrashed an RGIII led Baylor Bears team in the Texas Bowl 38-14. McGee was a team captain that 2010 season, a season in which he graduated and earned a degree in Recreation, Sport and Tourism. He was also the team’s Red Grange Award winner at the annual Illini Football Banquet, an award that goes to the player recognized for his dedication to the program.
Eddie McGee was never the full time starting quarterback at Illinois in his five years with the program. Still, he was a solid backup to Juice Williams and Nate Scheelhaase. He was prepared enough game in and game out to play quarterback or receiver. He was an important part of Ron Zook’s success in Champaign, an era Illini fans are generally proud of.
Said then-head coach Ron Zook about Eddie McGee to the Chicago Tribune back in August of 2009: “He’s a leader in every way. He has taken a lot of reps with the first group. He’s up to speed. There’s no one on our staff who’s scared to stick him in there.”
Not too shabby for a former 2-star quarterback from Washington D.C whose only other Power 5 offer was from Rutgers.
Eddie McGee spent some time after Illinois with the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets, but he was never able to make a final NFL roster. McGee now works as a content producer for E:60 at ESPN, according to his LinkedIn profile.