Illini Pay Tribute to 20 Seniors

Nov. 20, 2012

Each year, an Illini player writes a tribute about each senior on the team, recognizing their contributions to the team during their careers. These tributes appeared in the Senior Day gameday program.

2012 Senior Tributes

FB Zach Becker

Zach Becker
I have to first say that it is an honor and a privilege to be asked to write about Zach Becker. Additionally it's hard to sum up all the things that Zach has done for me and the fun times we have had together. Zach embodies the true spirit of what it means to be an Illini. Over his five years here, he has been through so much adversity and it is inspiring to see him meet and overcome each obstacle that has come before him. We all know Zach basically has a Ph. D. in crutch operations after all of his injuries, but that has never stopped him from having an upbeat attitude about the game of football for his teammates. Zach has shown me a lot in my three years being around him, and I will cherish each experience for years to come. I have enjoyed being his teammate, his roommate and most importantly his friend. (Except for when he doesn't do the dishes; that's when I don't like him as a roommate.)
- #89 Evan Wilson

DE Michael Buchanan

Michael Buchanan
Whether you want to call him Buke, Buke Juice, or just plain ol' Mike B, I know him simply as Michael Buchanan. I have known Mike since high school and he is still the same person. He looks at you with a piercing look as if he doesn't know you, and that is natural for him. This look that Mike gives off maybe seems different, but says so much about his character as a person. Mike is a true leader, a hard-worker and has the ability to never quit. The growth that Mike has had over the years has been a tribute to his dedication to this sport that we all love. Someone who possesses these qualities will not see his football career end here and the sky is the limit to where he can go. It's been great to share these moments with my high school teammate, but more importantly with my brother, roommate and friend.
- #7 Supo Sanni

DB Tommy Davis

Tommy Davis
I have been here for many years and I have seen many great Illini come and go through this program and Tommy Davis is a true Illini. Unlike the other seniors, Tommy transferred here for his final season from NIU and he has bought in to being an Illini since day one. No matter what is asked of Tommy, he is up for the job and he will give his best effort physically and vocally on and off the field. Tommy is the textbook definition of a true Illini and we are blessed to have him be a part of this program. Thanks, Tommy, for bringing your leadership and work ethic to the Fighting Illini.
- #25 Ashante Williams

DT Glenn Foster

Glenn Foster
Glenn Foster, aka Professor Turn-Up, is a person that I have gotten to know as a football player and as a man over the past four years. I remember when I met Glenn on my recruiting visit. He had hair extensions and everyone was under the impression that he had dreads. I thought that was the funniest thing ever. Over the last couple of years, I have seen Glenn grow as a football player, moving from defensive end to defensive tackle, and making strides in his game to become an NFL prospect. But Glenn is more than that; he is an overall great person. He is a dancing machine when the music turns on, and he starts jigging and dancing all over the place. You name a dance, and Glenn knows how to do it. I don't know how much his daughter minds it now, but I think as he keeps maturing, he will have to stop so he doesn't embarrass her with his dancing. Turn up, #91!
- #94 Akeem Spence

CB Justin Green

Justin Green
"Moon Man" or "Smooth" is how Justin Green is affectionately known to the Illini defensive backs because smooth is the perfect word to describe him. Everything he does seems effortless and easy. Justin has been one of the best athletes on the team since he stepped on campus back in the summer of 2009, but he also is one of the most humble. I've seen him make great plays throughout his career, and as his career has progressed, he has never once changed who he is as a person: a hard-working, humble guy who is really laid-back and just likes to have a good time. Justin has a stretch for every muscle in the body and a million stretch bands to help him stretch. He's probably going to be able to live to be 200 years old because he takes such good care of himself. That's just a tribute to the dedication he has. Every day, Justin works as hard as anyone on the team, if not harder, to get better. But the thing that makes him special is that he works that hard every day at being a good person and making everyone on the team feel welcomed. He's always having a good time no matter what the circumstances are. I know that wherever life takes him, he will be incredibly successful and he made the University of Illinois football team better on and off the field.
- #29 Kaeman Mitchell

WR James Hallendorff

James Hallendorff
James is one of the hardest working people I have ever met; anything that could be done to improve any part of his game, he would do it. I can't count how many times I have seen James either in the stadium or in the indoor facility setting up cones and running routes at full speed. Usually there isn't even someone throwing to him; he's just completely focused on running the route as best he can. Most times, this comes after a full practice in the morning with everyone else already exhausted and mentally drained. There is no doubt in my mind that whatever James decides to do after college - which will most likely be something extremely complicated to a person of average intelligence - he will be going above and beyond expectations. Impressing bosses, getting promotions and making boatloads of money.
- #13 Sean McGushin

CB Terry Hawthorne

Terry Hawthorne
I have known Terry Hawthorne for four years and he has taught me a lot about life and being a college football player. I admire Terry for many reasons: his work ethic, loyalty and determination to be successful in life. Terry is very dedicated to the team and he's also a good friend. Terry, in my opinion, is a leader by example because you never hear him say much, but he lets his play do the talking. I know when it's game time, you can always count on him to give 110 percent, no matter what. I like to look at Terry as a game-changer, because no matter if we're losing or if we need somebody to come up with a big play, you can count on him to do that. I also like the fact that Terry puts a lot of pressure on himself to do well; that says a lot about a person. Terry and I are like brothers because we are always fighting, goofing around or giving each other advice about life. Being roommates with Terry allowed me to get to know him a little better. I know he's crazy about his mother and will do anything for her. Terry will be missed, but I wish him the best of luck pursuing his career as a football player and as a family man.
- #21 Jack Ramsey

QB Sean McGushin

Sean McGushin
Crosstown rivals to teammates to lifelong friends. Sean and I grew up in the same town, playing the same sports and competing with the same kids, but we never really knew one another. Toward the end of senior year, we both had made the decision to walk on at Illinois and thus began our friendship. We spent a lot of time driving back and forth between St. Charles and Champaign, and it was those car rides that really cemented our friendship. Of course, there was the countless hours of workouts and living in the same dorm, but we found a way to make the two-and-a-half hour trek fun or entertaining, some car rides more than others. In the last four years, although we have never been roommates, somehow we always lived within a block or two. I met a group a friends through Sean that have made my college experience a memorable one. As a teammate, Sean is one of the best: selfless and supportive, willing to do whatever it takes to help the team. We have experienced a lot in the last four years: three different offenses, two head coaches and various changes in coaching staffs, two bowl victories and all the highs and lows associated with life of a walk-on football player. I can truly say my experience at Illinois would have been vastly different had it not been for Sean. I know you will be successful in whatever you choose to do after college and I hope to soon join you for more fun and challenges in the "real world."
- #86 Tim Russell

DB Kaeman Mitchell

Kaeman Mitchell
K Money, Money Mitts, or, as you have affectionately become known to me: The Yoach. You've been everything I could ever ask for in a friend. From our monthly ventures to pick up new threads in Tuscola, to our talks about the immense complexities of the women in our lives, to sharing laughs in our old corner of the locker room, my career here wouldn't have been as memorable had it not been for you. As I've often reminded you, that though `This ain't no Disney movie,' we've certainly done our best to live it up as though it were. I hope that you will always remember the elaborate history of the United States presidents as told on gingersnap cookies from nights spent in the Boys and Girls Club kitchen, just as I hope to one day duplicate the flashy attire you sported each and every day we entered the Northwestern Mutual office together. I look forward to what the future holds for you and to one day pull up a chair and kick back with `Da Yoach' on Kaeman Island. Until then, however, keep working on your dress-sock swag.
- #46 Zak Pedersen

DB Patrick Nixon-Youman

Patrick Nixon-Youman
Pat has always been like a brother to me. I have learned so much from him. If I had to think of one word to describe Pat, it would be "loyal." I have seen Pat show so much loyalty to me as well as other teammates, he has shown loyalty to his two daughters, and he shown so much loyalty to the game of football. When I was a freshman, I remember asking Pat how he was able to focus on the work in front of him, and his answer has stuck with me ever since. He told me, "When you have people in your life that you care about and that are depending on you, seeing them happy will mean the world to you and I still have work to do." This amazed me and it just shows the amount of dedication and loyalty he has for the people closest to him. Over the years, he has shown us what it means to sacrifice for others. I have seen him sacrifice every day for his two daughters to make sure they have the best life possible. I also have seen him sacrifice for this football team to help us however he could. When people see Pat, they see much more than just a great football player. They see a hard worker, a father, a brother and someone who is going to go far in life because of the love he has for others. It has been a privilege to get to know Pat and I am looking forward to see his next moves in life and I wish my brother the best.
- #9 Earnest Thomas III

LS Zak Pedersen

Zak Pedersen
The King of John Street, Four-Six, the Fearless Leader of No-Ro Nation, or simply Ped. Just a few of the many names that have been given to the odd kid with an unconventional sense of humor who has developed into the premier long snapper in the Big Ten and the embodiment of what a student-athlete should be. Sure, he may claim to have more game with the ladies than Rico Suave, thinks he's the Michael Jordan of racquetball, and finding him every Friday morning was as frustrating as playing "Where's Waldo," but that all made him into the individual that this campus can't be without. He played a vital role in afternoon scooter rides to holler at the co-eds, lunch at the freshman dorms, NHL and now FIFA Sundays blaring Rick Ross, and numerous other stories that cannot be disclosed as they could affect his bid for the presidency in 2024. Zak has developed himself into a physical specimen and nearly perfected the art of long snapping, which is exemplified in his performances every Saturday. Zak has the unique ability to bring out the best in people, as both of us would have never reached our fullest potential without him. Zak is an All-American football player, student, leader and - most importantly - friend. It has been one of the biggest honors of our college careers to be able to go to work every Saturday and drop bombs alongside him. The best is yet to come for 4-6. Get on the Money Train.
- Former Illini Derek Dimke & Anthony Santella

C Graham Pocic

Graham Pocic
Graham has been one of my best friends since my freshman year. Because I am the oldest child in my family, he also has been like the older brother that I never had. Whether it's helping me with football or teaching me how to tie a knot in my fishing line, Graham has always been there to help me as well as everyone else on this football team. I couldn't think of a better person to learn the game from. He is so dedicated to making sure he is as prepared as he can be for every game situation. Even though Graham is very serious when it comes to football, he also likes to have a good time. Being his roommate, we have played countless games of NHL 13 and most of the time it is total domination by me. His self-proclaimed nicknames of "The Money Man" and "Dr. Glove" just add to the embarrassment of when I beat him. All kidding aside, Graham has the tools to be very successful in whatever he decides to do in his life. He is a great leader and an even better friend. I know I speak for the offensive line as well as this whole team when I say that Graham will be missed by everyone. I wish him nothing but success, and I know that we will be friends for a lifetime. O-LINE PRIDE!
- #60 Tony Durkin

DB Jack Ramsey

Jack Ramsey
I have known Jack Ramsey since freshman year. Jack has not only been a teammate to me, but also a friend. Throughout all four years, he has taught me a lot. The most important thing he taught me was to never give up and to fight through adversity, even in my darkest days. His character speaks loudly and clearly, and I wish him the best in his career and in life. God bless you and your beautiful family. Love you, bro.
- #4 Patrick Nixon-Youman

OL Tyler Sands

Tyler Sands
When I think of Tyler Sands, I think of a boy who has used the opportunity he was given to grow into a man. Tyler is an above-average student who, in his five years here, has accomplished so much and has exceeded the standard for a student-athlete. In the midst of a hectic and sometimes overwhelming schedule, Tyler has managed to get his degree in psychology, is now attending graduate school and is engaged to his wonderful fiancée, Erin. Since I came to the University of Illinois, I have always admired Tyler for his competitive nature, whether it is on the field or off, and some of my best memories come from competing against him. When I first got to school, Tyler had an atrocious car; it was probably one of the first Volkswagens ever imported and it would fall apart every day of the week. Tyler's solution to this problem was to color duct tape with red permanent marker and try to convince everybody that he did such a great job and that you couldn't even tell the difference, which was false. Tyler is truly one of the great minds of our generation and I am excited to witness all of the great things he will accomplish. I am privileged to call him my friend and I wish him the best.
- #72 Hugh Thornton

DB Supo Sanni

Supo Sanni
I am proud to call Supo Sanni my best friend. Because he and I have been roommates for almost four years, we have shared many memories both on and off the field. He is a very unique person who can fall asleep just about anywhere his head can stay still. We both have faced some really tough injuries that have affected our careers, and I believe we were able to help each other through some of those times. He is a one-of-a-kind person and is a really competitive person both on and off the field. It doesn't matter if we are playing pick-up basketball for fun, video games or anything else, Supo will be one of the loudest people in the room talking the most trash. His confidence level with anything he does really makes him who he is and I believe it is what has pushed him this far in life. I know that he will definitely be successful because I don't think he or his family would allow it to be any other way. I know he will be missed by this team, this campus and by me.
- #70 Corey Lewis

DE Justin Staples

Justin Staples
When I came to Illinois on my official visit, Justin was my host. I thought he looked familiar but I couldn't remember where I had seen him before. Then it hit me: he played on the basketball team at St. Ed's and we guarded each other, and one time, he elbowed me in the chest because they were losing. We still talk about those days, or the times where I did something foolish and Staples put in my place like an older brother. He always wants to be the best and is one of the most competitive people I know. Every time he loses at anything, he forces them to play again. Justin is a hard worker and is very dedicated to his craft and he will be missed when he leaves this program. But at the end of the day, I am the better basketball player and Toledo is better than Cleveland!
- #59 Tim Kynard

LB Beau Sullivan

Beau Sullivan
"The Workhorse" is not only Beau Sullivan's nickname but the only way to describe him. Beau brings a work ethic and toughness that are contagious. When there is something that needs to be done, Beau will do it. No matter what it is, it's almost scary what this kid will do for the good of the team. He has played through some intense injuries dating back to high school, his stories of his injuries are so crazy you feel like they're coming from an old man who played alongside Red Grange. That toughness can't be replaced because it's so genuine with Beau. Everything he does is genuine and something he takes a great amount of pride in, and when he finishes something, he smiles at you and says "That wasn't that bad." The past four years that I have gotten to be Beau's teammate have truly been a great experience. He has such a passion for the game and the team that from the minute he stepped foot in the locker room, he was destined to make a positive impact on the team and that is exactly what he did. I know that Beau will go on to do great things in life; you can tell that just by what he has done in his time here.
- #29 Kaeman Mitchell

OT Hugh Thornton

Hugh Thornton
I have lived with Hugh Thornton throughout my career at the University of Illinois. I learned quickly that Hugh is very passionate about almost everything he does. His passion for the game of football can be seen every single day and he sets a great example for everyone to follow. Hugh and I have been through so much in our time here, but it's nothing compared to the adversity that Hugh has overcome to be where he is today. I am proud to have Hugh Thornton as one of my best friends and I know our friendship will last a lifetime. O-LINE PRIDE!
- #76 Graham Pocic

TE Eddie Viliunas

Eddie Viliunas
Eddie and I came to the University of Illinois many years ago in the summer of 2008. Since that time, we have both seen a lot of changes, whether it be coaching staffs or position changes. However, one thing remained the same throughout the years: Eddie's work ethic and dedication to this football program. As a freshman, Eddie was a walk-on quarterback and I didn't know him very well. Then he made the unlikely transition from QB to tight end our sophomore year and that is when our friendship started. I know at first he was a bit unsure about moving to tight end, a position he had never played, but looking back now, I would bet he wouldn't have it any other way. He made the switch and showed what a versatile player he was, and his determination to get on the field any way he could. The coaches noticed his talent and value to this program, and rewarded him with a well-deserved scholarship. Those that are lucky enough to be a part of Eddie's life know that he is a great friend, son, brother and teammate. He is an easy-going, fun-loving person who loves to have a good time. He has his own made-up language that he uses and that will leave everyone wondering what in the world he is talking about. For example, he likes to use the words "worth, Eric, and Jeff" as nouns and adjectives in sentences that you have never heard before. Even though we have no idea the actual meaning of his jargon, his coined phrases are often used throughout the team. It's attributes like this that Eddie has that makes people laugh and makes him a fun person to be around. I know he will be successful in whatever he decides to do after college because of his work ethic and competitive nature. I am honored to have spent the last five years pouring my blood, sweat and tears out on the field with Eddie. He will forever be a part of the Fighting Illini family.
- #41 Zach Becker

STAR Ashante Williams

Ashante Williams
Although leaving the state of Ohio for college was hard, picking the U of I was an easy choice knowing that our class was full of guys from the area. Ashante and I knew each other in high school but had the chance to become much closer as teammates at Illinois. Although we played different positions, we always found ways to motivate each other, whether it was through competing in every way imaginable, arguing about if the west side or east side of Cleveland produces better football players, or just trying to prove to all our teammates that Ohio has the best high school football. Ashante has always been a spark plug on the team and a guy that you could go to when you were down. I've gotten the pleasure to watch Ashante grow from a young man into the great father and leader of this team that he is today. I am proud to know that if I ever needed anything, I could call on Ashante without hesitation and I'm honored to have been able to learn what it means to be an Illini alongside my brother from Cleveland. Also, St. Edward would have beaten Mayfield by at least three touchdowns our senior year, Ashante, and you know it!
- #54 Justin Staples