Illini at the Fight Hunger Bowl: Day 4

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Illini Visit St. Anthony's Dining Room
Piano Jam Session at St. Anthony's Dining Room
Kitchen Singing at St. Anthony's Dining Room
Interim HC Vic Koenning Pep Rally Interview
Day 4 Photo Gallery

In case we had missed the meaning of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl prior to today, the Fighting Illini players and staff were confronted with it head-on when they spent the morning serving the guests of St. Anthony's Dining Room. One in five San Franciscans experience hunger and as many as one in two are hungry in the Tenderloin, the area around St. Anthony's Foundation.

Because of the size of the facility, the team split into two groups with the defense and specialists serving first while the offensive players had meetings. Then the groups switched, with the offense coming to St. Anthony's while the defense and specialists went back to the Hyatt Regency for meetings. From the start, the players and staff took to serving the guests as if they had been doing it all their lives. Players and coaches greeted people with smiles and warm hellos as they came in the door, filled trays and took them to the guests' seats and bussed their tables when they were finished.

While the defense and specialists did a great job, the offensive players and staff really put their own spin on the experience. Offensive line coach Joe Gilbert and tight ends coach Chip Long served as traffic directors near the food line, telling runners where to take trays of food. Running backs coach DeAndre Smith stood halfway down the long dining room and used hand signals to indicate how many people needed food.

About halfway through their time serving, the offensive players who were assembling the trays of food broke out into song. They belted out such classics as "My Girl" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" while they put the hot dogs, bread, macaroni and cheese, greens, pears and pudding cups on the trays. Then, one of the guests went over to the piano in the lobby and he was joined by tight end Evan Wilson, offensive linemen Chris Boles and Alex Hill, receiver Kenny Knight and running back Donovonn Young, who put together a hilarious freestyle jam session. You could tell the players and coaches all enjoyed spending some time with the guests and serving them. In all, here's a breakdown of today's meal:

6,000 hot dogs
600 pounds of greens
200 pounds of ketchup
500 pounds of macaroni salad
3,000 individual cups of pudding
6,000 slices of bread
1,000 pounds of pears
2,751 total meals served

After our trip to St. Anthony's Dining Room, Nathan Scheelhaase, Jack Cornell, Whitney Mercilus and Tavon Wilson joined interim head coach Vic Koenning at the pep rally at Union Square. The Marching Illini pep band and Illini cheerleaders were there, as were UCLA's band and cheerleaders. Both Koenning and UCLA interim head coach Mike Johnson spoke, along with players from both sides, and a nice crowd that was split pretty evenly between Illini and Bruin supporters, enjoyed the event.

From the pep rally, we went straight to AT&T Park for the team's walkthrough. The players checked out the locker room - Illinois is in the visitor's clubhouse at the baseball stadium - and walked around the field. Near the end of the walkthrough, they got together with the coaching staff and ran through some things that are different because the teams will be sharing a sideline tomorrow.

Later in the evening, more than 200 fans and staff gathered at Pedro's Cantina for the Illini happy hour, presented by the I Fund and Varsity "I" Association and sponsored by the Official Illini Visa Card. A live band entertained the spirited group and Illini merchandise was raffled off.

Thank you to all of our readers throughout our stay in San Francisco. Hopefully we have provided the coverage you're looking for with our blogs, videos and photo galleries. The team is definitely ready to get the game underway tomorrow. We hope you'll follow along with our live blog, which assistant athletic director for media relations Kent Brown and I will be running, during the game.

Go Illini!

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