SouthtownStar Athletes on Campus: Illinois State’s Blake Winkler named to quarterback watch list
By Mike Walsh For Sun-Times Media July 4, 2014 8:18PM
Blake Winkler, of Illinois State | Supplied photo
Updated: July 6, 2014 2:15AM
By the nature of the position, being the quarterback requires an individual to accept a leadership role on a football team.
Illinois State’s Blake Winkler is good with that.
The Frankfort native has received his first accolade of the 2014 season, chosen to the College Football Performance Awards Quarterback Award Watch List. Winkler is one of 36 returning athletes vying for the top quarterback award in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision.
“It’s a great feeling to be nominated,” Winkler said. “It’s unexpected. I didn’t know about an award like this, but it’s really an honor.
“There are so many elite quarterbacks in the FCS. There are so many great quarterbacks that we play against each week. It’s an honor to be nominated, but now I have to go out and back it up with my play on the field.”
If the 2013 season serves as an indication, the Lincoln-Way East graduate will be more than worthy of the preseason honor.
Winkler appeared in 10 games in 2013 for the Redbirds, starting the final nine while garnering a place on the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s All-Newcomer Team.
The sophomore completed 127-of-217 passes (58.5 percent) for 1,637 yards, with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder ranked fourth in the MVFC with a 132.8 passing efficiency rating.
“I think one of my strengths is that I’m a good pocket passer,” Winkler said. “Being a shorter quarterback is a disadvantage some people say, but I use my other intangibles.
“I think I hang in there well and I make good, accurate throws. I want to be a student of the game, so I watch a lot of film so that we know what defenses will do before the snap and give us an advantage.
“I want to use my intelligence and my leadership. I like being that guy. That’s a big responsibility to have your teammates rally around one guy. That’s really important.
“Being a quarterback is really a unique position and it takes a special person,” Winkler continued. “I look at the elite quarterbacks in the NFL and they are guys whom their teammates look up to and rally around. That’s something I really love about the position.”
Winkler and his teammates start their season Sept. 6, when Mississippi Valley State visits Hancock Stadium. Illinois State will have seven home games this season, with Eastern Illinois, South Dakota State, Youngstown State and Southern Illinois among the visitors.
“This is going to be an exciting season,” Winkler said, “especially the way the season ended last year (with losses to national champion North Dakota State and Southern Illinois).
“We want to get that feeling out. We’re excited about our team and coaches this season. We have seven home games — we’re really excited about that.
“We have one goal in mind that we’ve stressed: win the national championship. We don’t want to come up short this year. We have the players, we have the coaches and we have the drive. Everyone is on board and everyone believes that we can win the national championship.”
George Washington freshman Jillian Galich (Lincoln-Way North) was named the Atlantic 10 Conference Softball Rookie of the Week for the period ending April 7. Galich, who also was named the A-10 Player of the Week by College Sports Madness, batted .583 (7-for-12) with four doubles and nine RBI as the Colonials went 3-1 against Cornell and LaSalle.
For the season, the Tinley Park resident appeared in 49 games, making 46 starts. The right fielder totaled 10 doubles, which tied for the second-highest in a single season in GW history and is the second-highest by a freshman.
Galich was fifth in batting average (.268) and third in hits (37) and RBI (23) as the Colonials went 18-31-1 overall and 4-12 in conference.