April 19, 2008
There are many reasons why the University of Illinois has long been called 'Linebacker U.' Ten of the best ever to play the position are on the list of Greatest Fighting Illini Linebackers released today following a four-week fan voting period.
When the names at the top of the list include Dick Butkus and Ray Nitchske, both considered among the best ever at the position, former Illini linebackers can obviously stack up with any in the nation.
In addition to Butkus and Nitchske, those selected as the 10 Greatest Fighting Illini Linebackers are Darrick Brownlow, Bill Burrell, Kevin Hardy, John Holecek, Dana Howard, J Leman, Scott Studwell and John Sullivan. Butkus and Burrell each finished among the top four in voting for the Heisman Trophy in their respective senior seasons, while Nitschke, along with Butkus, are members of the Pro Hall of Fame. The remainder of the group all earned First-Team All-Big Ten honors during their careers.
At the 2008 Illini football home opener on Sept. 6 against Eastern Illinois, the 10 greatest Fighting Illini from each position who played at Memorial Stadium will be recognized and introduced to the crowd. That game has been selected as the Memorial Stadium Renaissance Celebration following a 21-month, $120 million renovation project. The linebacker group is the first of eight different groups that will be announced weekly, followed by the Specialists (April 26), Receivers (May 3), Defensive Backs (May 10), Quarterbacks (May 17), Defensive Linemen (May 24), Offensive Linemen (May 31) and Running Backs (June 6).
Illini fans were able to vote on-line at www.fightingillini.com from March 24 through April 17 to help select the honored athletes. Players on the ballot earned either first or second-team All-Big Ten honors, or played at least four years in the NFL.
Season tickets remain on sale for $225 for the sideline seating areas. Renewals for season tickets in the Horseshoe will be taken until April 25. Should Horseshoe season tickets remain after the renewal period, a sale date will be announced. Season tickets in the Horseshoe are $77. For more information regarding tickets, contact the UI Athletics Ticket Office by phone at 217-333-3470 or 866-ILLINI-1, on the internet at www.fightingillini.com or in person at the Assembly Hall North Box Office.
Note: Simeon Rice, who played the rush linebacker position at Illinois, was listed as a defensive lineman for voting purposes. The 10 Greatest Defensive Linemen will be announced May 24.
Darrick Brownlow, 1987-90
Bill Burrell, 1957-59
Dick Butkus, 1962-64
Kevin Hardy, 1992-95
John Holecek, 1991-94
Dana Howard, 1991-94
J Leman, 2004-07
Ray Nitschke, 1955-57
Scott Studwell, 1973-76
John Sullivan, 1974-78