Rod Cardinal's biggest challenge in three decades as Illinois basketball trainer? The late, great 'Big Bill' Rucks.
“This would have been the fall of 1973. Skip Pickering, the head athletic trainer, and Coach Harv Schmidt talked about trying to improve Bill’s flexibility so he could be more mobile on the court.
“Bill, at 7-foot-plus, was the biggest man that I had ever been around, and he was a very solid guy. Being new to Illinois, I eagerly accepted this job.
“I was going to start with improving ankle flexibility, only to find that his ankles would hardly even bend. So then I thought maybe I should work on his hamstrings. Yikes. He had the biggest, thickest and heaviest legs I had ever lifted, like lifting a huge tree trunk.
“Needless to say, progress was very slow, if at all. Bill was a real trouper, even suggesting that I tie one of his legs to a rope-and-pulley system to try to increase his range of motion. I did not do that, but I thought about it as my back and shoulders ached for weeks.”