Five Illini Greats Join Illinois Renaissance Celebration
Sept. 3, 2008
University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics officials announced Wednesday that Fighting Illini greats Robert Holcombe, John Karras, Thomas Rooks, Mike Wells and Mike Bass will return to Champaign-Urbana for the Illinois Renaissance Celebration Game against Eastern Illinois Sept. 6. The quintet 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 finished stadium.
"I am proud to have had the opportunity to be a part of the great tradition at the University of Illinois and very honored to be recognized as one of the best ever to play in our Memorial Stadium," Holcombe said. "I always look forward to spending time with former teammates, but I'm really excited about our football team and am looking forward to a great Illini performance."
Holcombe holds the Illinois career rushing record with 4,105 yards and held the season rushing record at the end of his career. He ranks eighth on the career total offense list, the only non-quarterback in the top 10, and holds Illinois' career all-purpose yardage record. He was drafted 37th overall in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams.
Karras was a consensus All-American in 1951 after leading the Illini to a Big Ten title, a win in the 1952 Rose Bowl and a final No. 3 national ranking. He was a third-team All-American in 1949 and held school records for career rushing yards, career and season rushing touchdowns, and career 100-yard rushing games at the end of his career.
Rooks was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and broke Illinois' career rushing record in 1985. He also broke the career rushing touchdowns record and currently ranks second on that list, tied with Holcombe and behind Howard Griffith. Rooks also is seventh on Illinois' career 100-yard rushing games list.
Wells was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 1972 and led Illinois in total offense from 1970-72. He currently ranks 10th in career total offense yardage and ranks ninth in career touchdown passes. He was selected in the fourth round of the 1973 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings and played five years in the league.
Bass was a second-team All-American in 1982 and currently stands fifth on Illinois' career scoring list, a record he held at the end of his career. His 104 points in 1982 was the school record for 17 years and he held the career field goals record when his career ended. He currently shares the season field goals record with Chris White and also shares the single-game field goals record with White, Dan Beaver and Doug Higgins. He ranks third in both career and season field goal accuracy.
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 Dick 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.