Caroline, Grabowski Join Illinois Renaissance Celebration

Jim Grabowski, FB, 1963-65
Jim Grabowski, FB, 1963-65

Aug. 12, 2008

University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA) officials announced today that Fighting Illini greats J.C. Caroline and Jim Grabowski will return to Champaign-Urbana for the Illinois Renaissance celebration game against Eastern Illinois Sept. 6. The pair joins a long list of legendary Illinois players who will be on hand for the 2008 home opener, when fans will get their first look at the newly renovated stadium.

"It's a great honor because the University of Illinois has had so many great athletes," Caroline said. "Just to be mentioned in the same conversation with those individuals is an honor."

J.C. Caroline, RB, 1953-54

Caroline was a consensus All-American in 1953 after leading the nation in rushing and shattering the Big Ten record with 1,256 yards on 194 carries (6.5 ypc). He topped 100 yards in a game six times, most notably posting 205 yards against Minnesota and 192 against Ohio State. Caroline led the Illini to an undefeated 7-0-1 record, a No. 7 national ranking and head coach Ray Eliot's last Big Ten title. He finished seventh in the 1953 Heisman Trophy voting and enjoyed a 10-year all-pro career with the Chicago Bears.

"I think it's terrific and I'm very honored," Grabowski said. "These reunions are great for renewing old acquaintances and saying hello to guys you played with."

Grabowski was a 1965 consensus All-American fullback, finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting after amassing 1,258 yards, which ranked second in the nation. He earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor and the Silver Football Award in 1965 and finished his career as the all-time Big Ten rushing leader with 2,878 yards. He was a two-time Academic All-America selection, entering the GTE Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 1993, and also is in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame after gaining 125 yards and being named the MVP of Illinois' 17-7 win in 1964. Grabowski also served as the color analyst for football games on the Illini Sports Network for 27 years, retiring after the 2006 season.

The Illinois Renaissance celebration will be highlighted by the return of a multitude of former Fighting Illini players, with the list of 10 greatest Illini in Memorial Stadium history at each position being honored during eight breaks throughout the game. The current team also will honor past greats by donning throwback uniforms modeled in the style of the Butkus era. Illinois will take on Eastern Illinois Sept. 6 at 11 a.m. The game will be nationally televised by the Big Ten Network.

The growing list of Fighting Illini greats slated to attend the Sept. 6 Renaissance Celebration:

  • Dick Butkus, LB, 1962-64
  • J.C. Caroline, RB, 1953-54
  • Scott Davis, DE, 1983-87
  • Jim Grabowski, RB, 1963-65
  • Dana Howard, LB, 1991-94
  • Kurt Kittner, QB, 1998-2001
  • Rich Kreitling, WR, 1957-58
  • Mike Martin, WR, 1980-82
  • Joe Rutgens, DL 1958-60
  • Craig Swoope, DB, 1982-85
  • Don Thorp, DL 1980-83
  • Jack Trudeau, QB, 1983-85
  • David Williams, WR, 1983-85