Illinois Athletics Announces Male Spirit Award Finalists

Luke Stannard of men's gymnastics
Luke Stannard of men's gymnastics

April 28, 2010

The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announced the seven finalists for Male Fighting Illini Spirit Award today. Each year, the male Spirit Award is given to an athlete who demonstrates the courage, determination and pride of Fighting Illini Athletics, going beyond his role as an athlete. The winner will be announced at the annual Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet on May 3.

The Male Fighting Illini Spirit Award finalists are:
Zach Barlow, golf
Bubba Chisholm, basketball
B.J. Futrell, wrestling
Azeez Shogbuyi, track and field
Abe Souza, tennis
Luke Stannard, gymnastics
Juice Williams, football

Senior golfer Zach Barlow overcame personal obstacles, becoming a team leader in the process. He has scoliosis and underwent surgery to insert a steel plate in his back when he was in high school. Barlow never let his health issues prevent him from playing the sport he loves, proving his doctors and everyone else wrong by playing golf in spite of his misaligned back. He has become an integral part of the team, demonstrating his commitment and desire to never surrender.

With determination and persistence, senior Bubba Chisholm achieved his lifelong dream of playing basketball for the Fighting Illini. He transferred to Illinois as a junior, joining the team as a walk-on. He eventually earned a scholarship during his senior year. Throughout his career, Chisholm supported his teammates, mentoring them and offering encouragement. He is active in the community through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and has spoken to numerous youth groups. He earned Academic All-Big Ten honors and was voted the Kenny Battle Most Inspirational Player by his teammates in 2010.

After earning a starting spot during both his first two years on the wrestling team at Illinois, B.J. Futrell had season-ending surgery to repair his shoulder during the 2009-10 season. Despite his injury, he remained positive, attending every practice and encouraging his teammates to reach their fullest potentials. After being cleared to begin training, Futrell organized extra workouts with his teammates. He is a constant motivator and maintains a positive attitude when facing any obstacle.

Senior Azeez Shogbuyi is known to inspire his track and field teammates with his determination. As a freshman, he was cut from the team as a sprinter but was invited to rejoin as a long jumper. Although he had never competed in the long jump, Shogbuyi put the team before himself, doing whatever needed to be done and eventually earned a spot in the sprint lineup. During his junior season, he showed true selflessness, sacrificing his body by diving across the finish line in a 4x100m relay. Although he did not win and had scrapes on his arm and leg, Shogbuyi did not give up. Later that day, he competed in the 100-meter dash, finishing sixth.

Junior netter Abe Souza constantly demonstrates his desire to win. Although he was not heavily recruited in high school, he has become one of the highest ranked players in the national tennis class of 2011 and leads the Illini in singles victories. Never afraid of competition, he constantly works to improve, bringing high intensity to every match. Additionally, he encourages his teammates, visits local elementary schools and gives tennis lessons to children. His passion, sportsmanship and fearlessness set an example for the rest of the team.

In addition to becoming both Big Ten and USA Gymnastics national champion on the pommel horse, senior gymnast Luke Stannard went beyond his role as a competitor. As team captain, he inspired his teammates to be their best. He helped the team prepare for each meet by incorporating motivational quotes, analyzing video and finding ways for the team to improve. Stannard helped hold his teammates accountable by making sure they attended class and performed to their highest abilities. He selflessly committed his time to the team.

Senior quarterback Juice Williams was a leader on the football field during his four years as a starter at the position. He came to every practice and game with a positive attitude, doing everything he could to motivate his teammates and help the team improve. In addition, Williams made numerous community service appearances in both the Champaign and Chicago areas. He spoke to multiple youth groups and visited a young liver transplant patient on his own, demonstrating his passion to inspire and help others. He enjoyed representing the University of Illinois and, throughout his career, showed his pride, courage and loyalty on and off the field.

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Male Fighting Illini Spirit Award Finalists
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