CHAMPAIGN – It’s not easy to break in as a college quarterback.
It’s even tougher for a walk-on at a Big Ten school.
That’s why York alumnus Jim Nudera switched from signal caller to tight end this offseason. The redshirt sophomore hopes the change will allow him to see the field on special teams this season for Illinois.
How did you pick Illinois?
Growing up I just knew that I really wanted to play ball and I told my dad I wanted to play at a Big Ten school. He was a graduate assistant at Michigan State in the early ’90s. He had the whole experience from a coaching standpoint. Illinois was just the best offer. They offered me a walk-on spot. I talked to a few smaller schools and Ivy League schools, but Illinois was the best fit. I think from a student-athlete standpoint that it has the whole package. For an Elmhurst kid to come here and get a chance to play for a Big Ten school is pretty special.
What is your best York memory?
Senior year collectively as a whole. We didn’t have the best year junior year. We were 4-5. I didn’t think my senior class was any more or less talented than the ones before. We ended up taking a share of the conference. It was really gratifying to see the hard work pay off.
What is your best Illinois memory?
My favorite memory so far is going to San Francisco for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. We take it seriously, but it can feel like a vacation with your friends. We really had a great time there.
What made you switch to tight end?
A couple guys went down and I was always one of the bigger quarterbacks on the roster. I told the coaches I’d go anywhere they wanted me to go. It opens up more opportunities on special teams and maybe in short yardage packages. I wrestled in high school so I’m a little more physical than your average quarterback.
What was the hardest part about the transition?
Adapting to the physicality. No one really hits you with the red jersey on. Driving your feet when you block is all new territory for me. There’s still a lot of work to be done with me and a lot of other guys in the fall.
Has your background as a quarterback helped you?
I think when you move from quarterback to pretty much any other position on the offensive side of the ball you have to grasp the whole offense and know what everyone is doing. Tight end is a little bit easier on the mental side. It’s still important to go into the film room with the quarterback mentality of knowing what everyone is supposed to do.