Twenty-one Fighting Illini Football Players Earn Degrees
May 17, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois commencement took place May 17 at Memorial Stadium, and among those honored were 83 Fighting Illini student-athletes and 21 football players who earned their degrees in 2013-14. In addition to the main ceremony, several student-athletes participated in their individual college ceremonies that took place across campus.
With State Farm Center, home of UI graduation since 1963, undergoing renovations, the UI's 143rd commencement was held outside for the first time in more than 50 years. An estimated 17,000 people packed the west side of the stadium to honor approximately 4,000 graduates on their big day.
Astronaut Mike Hopkins, a former Fighting Illini football captain and 1991 UI engineering graduate, gave the keynote address. Hopkins recently spent six months aboard the International Space Station with two Russian cosmonauts. He blasted into space on Sept. 25, logged more than 70.4 million miles aboard the station and orbited Earth 2,656 times before returning to the planet March 10.
Hopkins came to Illinois for its highly rated engineering school, but also decided to walk-on the football team in 1988. He earned a scholarship, became a starter at defensive back and was team co-captain as a senior, leading the Fighting Illini to four bowl games during his career.
Commencement weekend is the culmination of another excellent year in the classroom for Illinois student-athletes. The combined GPA for all UI student-athletes last spring was a 3.14, and the GPA from last fall was a 3.23 (the grades from Spring 2013 have not been posted yet). In the fall semester, 24 student-athletes earned perfect 4.0 GPAs, 10 more than in fall 2012. Between the spring and fall semesters of 2013, an average of 62 percent of student-athletes earned GPAs over a 3.00.
Once again this year, Illini student-athletes were actively involved in the Champaign-Urbana community and beyond through their participation in Hometown Heroes community service events, all part of the Douglas C. Roberts Illini CHAMPS Life Skills Program.
Student-athletes participated in more than 150 events this year volunteering over 5,300 hours visiting children in local schools and hospitals, senior citizens in nursing homes, and participating in events with organizations in our community like the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Tom Jones Kiwanis Challenger Baseball League.