May 6, 2008
The list of Illinois' greatest specialists is highlighted by five of the top eight scorers in school history and possibly the greatest all-around athlete in Fighting Illini history.
Dike Eddleman, who earned 11 varsity letters in three different sports, is considered by many to be the greatest all-around athlete to wear an Illinois uniform. He holds career, season and single-game punt return records, while still ranking among the Top 10 in school history for punting average. While helping the Illini to the 1947 Rose Bowl, Eddleman also represented the United States at the 1948 Olympics as a high jumper and was the team leader for the basketball squad that advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 1949.
The place-kickers on the list are all ranked among the top eight scorers in school history, led by Jason Reda, who just wrapped up his Illini career in 2007 with 267 points. Chris White, Mike Bass, Dan Beaver and Neil Rackers all kicked at least 34 field goals during their Illini careers.
Pierre Thomas finished his career as the school's career kickoff return yardage leader with 1,495 yards and an average of 25.3 yards per carry.
Besides Eddleman, the other punter honored is Steve Weatherford, who set the school record with a career punting average of 43.5 yards. The final two on the list are snappers Nathan Hodel and Adam Linger, both of whom have made a reputation as two of the NFL's finest during their careers.
At the 2008 Illini football home opener 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 specialists group is the second of eight different groups that will be announced weekly, followed by the receivers, 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 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. 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
10 Greatest Fighting Illini Specialists
Mike Bass, PK, 1980-82 Neil Rackers, PK, 1996-99 Dan Beaver, PK, 1973-76 Jason Reda, PK, 2004-07 Dike Eddleman, P, PR, 1946-48 Pierre Thomas, KR, 2003-06 Nathan Hodel, LS, 1997-2000 Steve Weatherford, P, 2002-05 Adam Lingner, 1979-82 Chris White, PK, 1983-85