Senior Trulon Henry, who sacrificed for the team by moving from safety to SAM linebacker this season, was called as a leader to help prevent a late-night problem involving a few of his teammates. His good deed was punished when a stray bullet hit him in the hand, an injury that required surgery. Illinois coach Ron Zook provided an update for media Sunday.
"He's resting and doing pretty well. Obviously, any time you have a bullet go in your finger, it's not good. I talked to Dr. (Robert) Gurtler, and he said he would probably be in the hospital for a day or so. There's still some evaluations they have to do, but he's doing pretty well at this point."
Zook's Sunday has been dominated by his concern for his player and an investigation into the circumstances surrrounding the incident.
"Here's what happened. It was 5 or 6 of the younger players who didn't play. They told me, 'Coach, we go to this place because there are no issues, and usually we don't have to worry about getting in trouble if we go downtown."
"There were older people there, and more people. Trulon, being the leader that he is, the guys called him and said it was getting a little crazy, and they needed a ride to get out of there. He had been home, and he was actually picking up his brother somewhere else and taking him home. So he stopped by to get them out of there."
Apparently, other people were involved in a fight, and a stray bullet hit Henry's ring finger. Zook doesn't get these calls often, but he always dreads them.
"I was informed about 3 o'clock this morning. I'm not exactly sure when it happened. Anytime you get a call at that hour, it's not good."
While Henry will definitely miss the remaining two games on the regular schedule, he may be healthy for a bowl game, and he shouldn't have any long-term disability.
"I spoke with Trulon. He called me this morning around 4:30-5:00 and apologized. All he was trying to do was help. He is a leader, and he was trying to be a team leader and trying to help. He ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time."
Zook was asked whether a curfew was in effect.
"We don't normally have curfews per se on Saturday night after a game. These guys were being college students, and yes they were probably out too late. But it's hard to keep them where you want them."
Will the other players involved be disciplined?
"Probably not. It's pretty hard to keep them on curfew. You talk to them about being out late. This is the first issue we've had like this. It was late, I'm not gonna deny that. But most football players and coaches I'm aware of don't normally have a curfew on Saturday nights."
Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas is aware of the situation.
"I have not talked with Mike. He's been informed, Adrian (Melendez, Director of Football Operations) has kept him in the loop on everything. I've been busy trying to collect all the facts."
In other injury updates, Zook provided good news on safety Steve Hull. He was injured during the Michigan game.
"He's sore, but the doc felt like he probably was gonna be able to play Saturday. It depends on when he's pain-free. But he'll be all right. It was a pinched nerve-type injury. He got hit in the back in the first quarter.
"When there is any numbness for an extended period of time, they do a pretty thorough testing. But all the tests came back like they wanted."
Zook also said he expected guard Hugh Thornton back this week, good news as the depleted offensive line needs all the help it can get. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase wore a protective boot after the game yesterday, but Zook says it is a mild sprain that shouldn't prevent Scheelhaase from practicing this week.
Understandably, Zook had not yet had much time to review the Michigan loss. And media were more concerned about the Henry story than game details. But Zook did state the obvious regarding the offense.
"I don't think there's any question we've got to get the offense going. Everyone knows that. Coaches know it, players know it, I know it. We're gonna do what we have to do to get things going on the offensive side of the football."
The defense gave up two early touchdowns but settled down after that. Zook says it must make improvements also.
"It was a case of our defense trying to do too much. As well as the defense played, there were a lot of things we didn't do that we had been doing well. We could have played a lot better."
The team meeting Sunday afternoon will be more extensive than most.
"We have a lot of things to talk about. We have issues that need to be corrected on the football side. But we also have issues you need to talk about as a parent to his children. As a coach, you are concerned about this. This is why you worry about this. It's not something our guys did except being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it's something they have to be aware of."