June 17, 2008
Former Illini star defensive lineman Mel Agee will be remembered fondly by family, friends, teammates and the Illinois Football Program. Agee's life was cut short when he passed away at the age of 39 after suffering an apparent heart attack Sunday evening at his home in Lawrenceville, GA.
Agee, a graduate of Chicago's Washington High School, was a tremendous student-athlete in his time at Illinois, graduating with a degree in general engineering. His teammates remember him as "Big Bopper" for his competitive nature and ability to always make the big play, but his friends remember him most for his personality.
Former teammate Shawn Wax said, ""He was always ready for fun no matter what we were doing. If we were playing basketball, cards, or dominoes, you could count on Mel to have a good time."
Agee played as a defensive lineman for the Illini from 1987-90 and was recently named one of the Fighting Illini's 10 Greatest Defensive Lineman in history. He received first-team All-Big Ten honors both 1989 and 1990 in his junior and senior seasons. Agee was an honorable mention All-America selection in 1990. He helped lead the 1990 Fighting Illini team to a tie for Big Ten Champion and the Hall of Fame Bowl. He also participated in the 1988 All-American Bowl and the 1990 Citrus Bowl.
"Mel took a lot of pride in his two children, and he was very excited to bring him back here to see him honored as one of the 10 greatest defensive lineman," Wax continued. "In the past year, especially, he'd been reaching out to former players and teammates in his area. He was one of the driving forces getting former Illini together and involved in each other lives."
Fellow teammate Mike Bellamy, who also resides in Atlanta, had spent the Memorial Day weekend with Agee.
"He was such a happy-go-lucky person," Bellamy said. "Nothing every really bothered him. He ended every conversation with a laugh, a hug, or a handshake. Mel made everyone feel important, whether you knew him 20 years or 20 minutes. He acted like you made his day special, when he was the one making your day special."
Agee ranks seventh on Illinois' career quarterback sacks list with 15 and fifth on the season list with nine in 1989 tied for leading the team. He also is ninth on the all-time tackles for loss list for Illinois with 32.
"When I was at Ohio State as an assistant, I had the opportunity to see Mel play first-hand," said Illinois head coach Ron Zook. "He was an exceptional player and a big part of the reason Illinois' defense was so strong in the late 80's.
"It is always unfortunate to lose a member of the Illinois family, but at such a young age is even more saddening. He will always be remembered by Illini fans."
Agee was a sixth round draft choice by the Indianapolis Colts in 1991 and played five years in the NFL with the Colts and Atlanta Falcons.
Services for Agee will be held on Sat., June 21 in Atlanta at the New Mercy Baptist Church beginning at 11 a.m. ET.
Wax finished by saying, "Mel was a great father, friend, and teammate. He will never be forgotten."