If you have already forgotten about Pete DiNovo, that’s okay. If you never knew about him, that’s also okay.
It seems like only yesterday that Pete DiNovo walked onto the Illinois Football team for a week in the middle of the season.
In 2017, Illinois was 2-1 heading into a bye week that preceded conference play. They were coming off a 24-point loss at USF where Chayce Crouch was benched in favor of Jeff George Jr. after an uninspiring performance. It became clear that night that Crouch didn’t have the arm talent to be be the team’s every-down QB going forward. JGJ came in and did JGJ things, which mainly consists of interceptions and passes that should have been intercepted.
The team was still 2-1 and the fanbase still had hope that the Illini could capture a few Big Ten wins, but after the USF game it was apparent the team would need a different QB to make those hopes a reality.
That’s when our hero — our knight in shining armor — arrived. During the bye week, this mystery man who previously played quarterback (then wide receiver, then quarterback again) at UCF had reportedly started practicing with the team.
People didn’t even know what this guy looked like and they didn’t care that he had only thrown nine career passes in four years at UCF. There were already murmurs of a Friday Night Lights, Matt Saracen-esque performance.
“Can he be ready for Nebraska?”
“Is he mobile?”
“How long would it take to learn the playbook?”
“With DiNovo in the fold, this team could push for a bowl game.”
DiNovo appeared in two career games — one as a quarterback and one as a wide receiver — over three seasons with the Knights. His three passing attempts as a freshman totaled for minus-5 total yards.
The desperation was palpable. We were leaping at any reason to hope. And we were gifted a QB midseason who just hadn’t received his opportunity yet. Tragically, that opportunity would never come.
Later that week DiNovo would leave the team.
No one really knows why he left. Or why he came, for that matter. Or why any of us cared.
Even though DiNovo’s Illini career was cut short, we’ll always have those magical few days where we dreamed of a mystery man QB who would lead the 2017 Illinois Football team to victory.
We’ll never forget you, Pete.