CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini football team, families and friends gathered to honor 20 seniors and the season's award winners at the 111th annual football banquet Saturday at the Memorial Stadium Colonnades Club.
The following are the Illini award winners from the 2012 Illinois Football Banquet:
Outstanding Offensive Player:Graham Pocic, center
Pocic anchored the offensive line for the last three seasons, making 36 starts, mostly at center. He also saw some time at guard and tackle in 2012 and throughout his career. Pocic was two-time honorable mention All-Big Ten performer in 2010 and this season.
Outstanding Defensive Player:Michael Buchanan, defensive end
Buchanan was a two-time second team All-Big Ten performer in 2011 and 2012. He led the team in sacks this season with 4.5 and also had 57 tackles, 7.0 TFLs, five PBUs, five hurries, one interception and one forced fumble. For his career, he racked up 161 tackles, 26.0 TFLs, 14.0 sacks and 10 passes defended.
Outstanding Special Teams Player:Justin Green, defensive back
Green was a three-year starter at cornerback for the Illini, and also came up big in all four special teams phases this season, playing on coverage and return units for both kicks and punts. He had a long return of 43 yards against Purdue in his last game at Memorial Stadium.
Wright Commitment to Excellence Award:Zach Becker, fullback/tight end
The Wright Commitment to Excellence Award is presented each year to a senior who has exemplified persistence in the face of obstacles to achieve success.Becker joined the team in 2008 as a walk-on and made an immediate impact, playing in 11 games and scoring a touchdown at Wisconsin. He played in 12 games in 2009 and earned a scholarship heading into 2010, but was limited to only three games that season due to injury. Becker returned to the field in 2011, but broke his leg in the second game and missed the rest of the season. After months of hard ward and dedication, Becker bounced back stronger than ever in 2012, playing in all 12 games. With all of this going on, Becker always got it done in the classroom. He was a three-time All-Big Ten selection and two-time winner of the team's Scholar-Athlete Award, and is on track to graduate later this month.
Bruce Capel Award:Eddie Viliunas, tight end
The Bruce Capel Award is given to the Illini player who displays the most courage, dedication and accomplishment throughout the season. Viliunas joined the team in 2008 as a walk-on quarterback. He was moved to tight end during the 2009 season and first saw the field in 2010, mostly as a blocker in two tight end sets. He became a big contributor to the passing game in 2011 and 2012, with 12 catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns, while remaining one of the team's most reliable blockers and leaders. He is on track to graduate later this month.