Beckman Announces 7 Honorary Coaches for Spring Game
April 10, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois head coach Tim Beckman announced the seven former Illini who will return to campus this weekend to serve as honorary coaches for the annual Orange and Blue Spring Game, which will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 12, at Memorial Stadium. Illini greats Dana Howard, Rashard Mendenhall, Dino Pollock, Eric Rouse, Tim Simpson, Juice Williams and Martez Wilson will lead the split squads. Howard, Rouse and Wilson will patrol the sidelines for the Orange squad, while Mendenhall, Pollock, Simpson and Williams will coach the Blue team.
Howard was Illinois' first Butkus Award winner and was a consensus All-American in 1994. He set the Big Ten record for career tackles with 595 and was a fifth-round NFL draft pick in 1995. He was a three-time All-American, also earning first-team accolades in 1993 and honorable-mention status in 1992. Howard, along with Kevin Hardy, John Holocek and Simeon Rice, earned Illinois the nickname "Linebacker U" in the mid-1990s.
Mendenhall began the recent string of Illini selected in the first round of the NFL Draft when the Pittsburgh Steelers grabbed him with the 23rd pick in 2008. He broke Illinois' single-season rushing record with 1,681 yards as he led the Illini to the 2008 Rose Bowl, earning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and the Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award. He also broke school records with 114 points, 1,999 all-purpose yards, 19 total touchdowns, 17 rushing touchdowns, eight 100-yard rushing games and an average of 6.4 yards per carry. A third-team All-American and semifinalist for the Doak Walker and Maxwell Awards, Mendenhall ranked eighth nationally in rushing with 129.3 yards per game.
Pollock lettered for the Illini as a wide receiver in 1989, helping the Orange and Blue to a Florida Citrus Bowl win over Virginia and a 10-2 record.
Eric Rouse was a three-year letterwinner at flanker for the Illini from 1976-78, leading Illinois in receiving yards in 1976 and racking up 41 receptions for 617 yards (15.0 ypc) and four touchdowns in his career.
Simpson was an All-American guard in 1991 and was a two-time All-Big Ten selection. He holds Illinois' record for career games started with 48, every game of his career. He also was named Illinois' Dike Eddleman Athlete of the Year in 1992. Simpson was a 12th-round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 1992 NFL Draft.
Williams, who currently serves as director of high school and alumni relations under Beckman, broke Illinois' record and ranked fifth on the Big Ten career total offense list with 10,594 yards. He helped Illinois lead the Big Ten in rushing in 2006 and 2007, and in passing in 2008. He engineered an Illini offense that broke school records for total offense and rushing offense in 2007, and led the Orange and Blue to a monumental 28-21 victory at No. 1 Ohio State on the way to the Rose Bowl that season. He finished his career third in passing yards in school history with 8,037, sixth in career rushing yards (2,557) and third in career touchdown passes (56).
Wilson, who currently plays for the Dallas Cowboys, was a third-round selection by the New Orleans Saints in the 2011 NFL Draft. A first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2010, Wilson tied for fourth in the Big Ten in tackles with 112 and tied for ninth with 11.5 tackles for loss. He helped Illinois to two bowl berths during his career, a win over Baylor in the 2010 Texas Bowl and an appearance in the 2008 Rose Bowl, and was a three-year letterwinner at linebacker.
Prior to the spring game, former Illini players, coaches and staff will be welcomed back to campus with the 2014 Varsity "I" Football Barbecue Bash.