First-year offensive line coach is complete package, say those around him.


 Whether it's the hotel and practice fields at Camp Rantoul or the tunnel leading to the Memorial Stadium turf, Illinois first-year offensive line coach Luke Butkus has been there, done that.

"It's fun to be back out here,'' said Butkus. "Back out there where it all started.''

There's something special about the Butkus name for Illinois. The No. 50 worn by his uncle Dick Butkus is one of two retired by the Illini, joining the 77 of Red Grange. Luke Butkus knew what he was doing on the field as a player, earning third-team All-America as a senior and a twice voted to the all-Big Ten team. Now he can prove his worth as a coach.

"This is important to me,'' Butkus said. "I'll be passionate about it. This is home for me, and I'm going to have fun doing it. This place is special to me.''

But what makes Luke Butkus special -- his passion for the Illini, workingman's attitude and desire to recruit -- is he's more than just another Butkus, according to those around him.

He schooled himself under Ron Turner and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. He played for them at Illinois and worked under them with the Bears as an assistant line coach. Butkus held the same position under coach Pete Carroll with the Seattle Seahawks, where took insights from respected line coaches Alex Gibbs and Tom Cable.

"I don't claim to be anyone of those guys, but I stole from everyone of those guys,'' Butkus said. "There's a certain way I have to train these guys. It might be different from those (coaches), but there's a piece of everyone of those guys in my style.''

The 33-year-old Butkus might be young when it comes to Division I college coaching -- he's in his first stint as a full-time position coach -- he's got plenty in his playbook.

"He's got an encyclopedia of information,'' said Illini running backs coach Tim Salem. "Forget about his age. He's got some great knowledge. He's also played the position and has a great amount of toughness and great feel for the school.''

Illinois coach Tim Beckman's brother, Ted, a financial planner for NFL coaches and front-office personnel, met Butkus late last season. That helped form a line of communication between Butkus and the new Illini coach.

"I saw a guy who believed in Illinois, and he's a great coach,'' Beckman said. "It's a no-brainer.''

Butkus handles a line with limited experience. Left tackle Hugh Thornton and left guard Graham Pocic changed positions. With Jake Feldmeyer at center, the other spots appeared open.

Butkus gets so excited when talking about Illinois, he sometimes sprays it instead of just saying it. Legendary Kankakee Bishop McNamara coach Rich Zinanni found that out when Butkus spoke before 100 coaches at a clinic in February.

"He captured the audience,'' Zinanni said.

Butkus played a role in landing Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey, a four-star recruit who led the Raiders to the Class 8A title last season as a junior. Evidently, Butkus' passion spills into his work as a recruiter on the south side of Chicago.

"He's very aggressive,'' Zinanni said. "He's got a great personality. He's easy to like He's very enthusiastic about Illinois football. Luke feels good about being there.''

John Supinie can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.