Illini Honor Seniors And Award Winners At Annual Football Banquet

Illini QB Kurt Kittner
Illini QB Kurt Kittner

Nov. 27, 2000

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Illinois head football coach Ron Turner, the Fighting Illini football team and family and friends gathered to honor the 15 seniors and the season's award winners Monday night at the annual team banquet at the Illini Union.

Former Illini Kris Jenner was on hand to receive the Monsignor E. Duncan award, which is given annually to the former letterwinner who has diplayed exemplary integrity and dedication to his community. Jenner was a letterwinner in 1983 and served as a backup quarterback for Tony Eason. He graduated summa cum laude from Illinois with a B.S. in chemistry. He also earned a doctorate from Oxford University and an M.D. from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Jenner is now a vice president at T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., where he specializes in the coverage of Biotech and Pharmecutical companies.

The following are the Illini award winners from the 2000 Illinois Football Banquet:

Most Valuable Player: Kurt Kittner, quarterback Offensive Player of the Year: Kurt Kittner, quarterback Kittner, for the second straight year, was named the team's most valuable player. Kittner led the balanced Illinois offensive attack with 1,982 passing yards and 18 touchdown passes. He increased his completion percentage from a year ago to 58 percent. He connected with seven different receivers for touchdown passes and moved to second on the Illinois all-time touchdown pass list. He is also now among the top-5 career leaders in pass completions, pass attempts, passing yardage and total offense.

Defensive Players of the Year: Fred Wakefield, defensive end, Robert Franklin, linebacker Wakefield finished among the best in the country and conference with nine sacks and 21 tackles for loss, which ranked first in the Big Ten. He started all 11 games for the Illini, also registering 11 quaterback hurries, one interception, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. His pass deflection against California preserved a 17-15 win. For his performances against California and Iowa, Wakefield earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors.

Franklin led the team in total tackles with 109, 83 solos. He was the team-leading tackler in three games and registered double-digit totals in each of those contests. Franklin also recorded four tackles for loss and got his third career interception in the Illini's 31-0 shutout of Iowa. He had a career-high 16 tackles against Ohio State and recovered a fumble for a return of 48 yards against Minnesota.

Special Teams Player of the Year: Muhammad Abdullah, safety In addition to playing nearly every down defensively, Abdullah graded out as the most productive special teams member. He was a team leader on the punt return, punt protection, kickoff protection and field goal block units. He recorded 181 total special team plays, the most of any member of the Fighting Illini team and registered 13 total tackles and one fumble recovery on special teams.

Rookie of the Year: Charles Gilstrap, defensive tackle The Columbus, Ohio-native became a regular on the defensive line as a true-freshman and served as a valuable reserve. He totaled nine tackles, playing in eight games. He recorded three tackles against Minnesota and two in the Illini's 31-0 win over Iowa Despite playing early in his career, Gilstrap was able to add depth to an injury-riddled defensive line.

Bruce Capel Award: Josh Whitman, tight end Scholar-Athlete Award: Josh Whitman, tight end The Bruce Capel Award is given to the Illini player who displays the most courage, dedication and accomplishment throughout the season. Whitman showed his determination both on the field and in the classroom. The West Lafayette, Ind. native was a team leader by his words and actions. His seven touchdown receptions make him among the tight end leaders in school history, falling two touchdowns short of the record at the position. He also carried a 3.99 GPA through his career and will graduate in December in only three and a half years. Whitman is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and two-time Academic All-American. This December he will represent all of college football as a College Football Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete.

Wright Committment to Excellence Award: Michael Young, linebacker The Wright Committment to Excellence Award is presented to the individual who has dedicated themselves to academic excellence despite obstacles faced during his collegiate career. Young came to Illinois as an NCAA partial qualifier and had to sit during his true-freshman season. After he became eligible for play in 1997, Young earned a starting position at sam linebacker and never relinquished the job. Last may, he graduated in sports management and began pursueing a second bachelors degree in community health this fall.

Scout Team Players of the Year: Mark Kornfeld, quarterback, Mike Gawelek, linebacker, Anthony Julian, cornerback.

2000 Team Captains: Ray Redziniak, offensive guard (offense), Fred Wakefield, defensive end (defense), Muhammad Abdullah, safety and Bobby Jackson (special teams).