Illini Gridders Honored at Rotary Banquet
Danny Clark named Most Valuable Player -11/24/98
The 1998 University of Illinois football squad was honored earlier this evening at the 96th annual Rotary Illinois Football Banquet, held in the Illini Union ballroom with more than 600 in attendance. The banquet, sponsored by the Champaign Rotary Club, honored the Fighting Illini football squad and featured award presentations from UI Chancellor Michael Aiken, Director of Athletics Ron Guenther and Head Football Coach Ron Turner.
Linebacker Danny Clark was named Most Valuable Player after an outstanding junior season with 115 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and two interceptions. Senior tackle Ryan Schau was named Outstanding Offensive Player and presented with an award by offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, Clark received Defensive Player of the Year accolades from Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach Tim Kish and Steve Havard earned Special Teams Player of the Year honors from Special Teams Coach Greg McMahon.
Former All-American quarterback Tony Eason was honored as the 1998 recipient of the Monsignor Edward J. Duncan Award, given to an Illinois football alumnus who displays exemplary integrity and dedication to community and service. Eason threw for more than 7,000 yards in 1981-82, leading Illinois to 14 victories and the 1982 Liberty Bowl before being tabbed in the first round by New England in the 1983 NFL draft. Eason played eight seasons in the NFL with the Patriots and New York Jets and is currently a financial analyst and operates his own sports marketing firm.
The Chancellor's Choice Awards were presented on video, highlighting the top 10 plays of 1998 and featuring Rocky Harvey (twice), Steve Havard, Kurt Kittner, Robert Franklin, Neil Rackers, Rameel Connor, Steve Fitts, Mike Gusich and the entire offensive line.
Senior defensive tackle Garrett Johnson received the prestigious Bruce Capel Award, named after the former UI letterwinner (1962-64) who was killed while serving military duty in Vietnam. The award is given to the most courageous Illini demonstrating dedication and accomplishment. Johnson fought through injuries during his career to enjoy a tremendous senior season, ranking third on the UI squad with 66 tackles with a team-leading 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
Coach Turner named R. Schau (offense), Clark (defense) and Ivan Benson (special teams) as 1998 team captains. Senior free safety Mike Gusich was named Outstanding Scholar-Athlete with a 3.7 GPA in Finance and Aaron Moorehead and Nolan Nawrocki were named Scout Team Players of the Year.
Steve Fitts (special teams), Harvey (offense) and Brandon Moore (defense) were honored as Rookie of the Year and senior Jeff Weisse was recognized as the recipient of the Wright Commitment to Excellence Award, presented by former UI All-American wide receiver John Wright, Sr.
Twelve Illini seniors were recognized for their accomplishments, including Benson, Gusich, Mark Hoekstra, Johnson, Joe Lauzen, J.P. Machado, Rob Majoy, George McDonald-Ashford, Ryan Murphy, Ryan Schau, Tom Schau and Weisse.
The event was emceed by Illini Sports Network play-by-play announcer Jim Turpin, featured appearances from the Marching Illini and ended with a rousing chorus of "Hail to the Orange." Illinois finished 3-8 overall, 2-6 in the Big Ten and opens the 1999 season in 284 days, hosting Arkansas State September 4, 1999.