Juriga, Mark Butkus Join Illinois Renaissance Celebration
Aug. 19, 2008
University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA) officials announced today that Fighting Illini greats Mark Butkus and Jim Juriga will return to Champaign-Urbana for the Illinois Renaissance celebration game against Eastern Illinois Sept. 6. The pair of linemen who led the Illini to the 1984 Rose Bowl join 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 finished stadium.
"I was ecstatic over it and never thought it would happen," Butkus said of being named one of Illinois' 10 greatest defensive linemen. "I was really excited. I always love going back when I get a chance. I love the excitement and the fans. I'll be bringing my whole family down, so it's even better."
One of the 10 greatest defensive linemen in Memorial Stadium history, Butkus was a four-year starter at defensive tackle along with fellow Illini great Don Thorp from 1980-83, helping spur the Orange and Blue to a berth in the 1984 Rose Bowl. He was an honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press in 1983 as well as a first-team All-Big Ten selection. He earned second-team honors in 1981. Butkus was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 11th round of the 1984 NFL Draft.
"It's always a great honor because Illinois has such a long-standing tradition and has had great players at every position," Juriga said. "The thing that I'm most excited about is that the games are being sold out. Coach Zook, his staff and the players have put together a good product. The exciting thing is coming back and having the fans behind the team like we had when I played in the '80s."
Juriga, who was named one of the 10 greatest offensive linemen in Memorial Stadium history, also is a member of Illinois' All-Century team that was selected in 1990. He was a two-time All-American in 1983-84 and was a three-time first-team All-Big Ten pick. Juriga also helped lead the Illini to the 1984 Rose Bowl, the team's first in 20 years, and was a fourth-round draft pick by the Denver Broncos in 1986. He played six years in the NFL and competed in Super Bowl XXIV with the Broncos.
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.