Illinois Names Greatest Signal Callers

CHAMPAIGN, ILL - Fighting Illini football fans will remember the 1980s as the Quarterback Era with five of the 10 greatest signal-callers to play at Illinois lettered during the decade.

The 80s led off with Dave Wilson, who set several school, Big Ten and NCAA passing records his lone season in Champaign. "Champaign" Tony Eason followed with two spectacular seasons that saw the Illini advance to the postseason for the first time in nearly 20 years. Jack Trudeau followed suit the next three seasons, setting nearly all the career Illini passing records and leading Illinois to the 1983 Big Ten Championship and 1984 Rose Bowl. Jeff George, who would become the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, and Jason Verduzco wrapped up a decade of great quarterbacks.

The great quarterbacks span several eras of Illini football history with Jack Beynon, Tommy O'Connell and Mike Taliaferro representing the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s, respectively. O'Connell and Taliaferro quarterbacked Big Ten champion teams in 1951 and 1963, while Beynon led a powerful squad in 1934. Mike Wells earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in the early 70s and Kurt Kittner led the Illini to a Big Ten title in 2001.

At the 2008 Illini football home opener on Sept. 6 against Eastern Illinois, the 10 greatest Fighting Illini from each position who played at Memorial Stadium will be recognized and introduced to the crowd. That game has been selected as the Memorial Stadium Renaissance Celebration following a 21-month, $120 million renovation project. The Quarterback group is the fifth of eight different groups that will be announced weekly, preceded by the Linebackers, Specialists, Receivers and Defensive Backs, and followed by Defensive Linemen, Offensive Linemen and Running Backs. Illini fans were able to vote on-line at www.fightingillini.com from March 24 through April 17 to help select the honored athletes. Players on the ballot earned either first or second-team All-Big Ten honors, or played at least four years in the NFL.

Season tickets remain on sale for $225 for the sideline seating areas. For more information regarding tickets, contact the UI Athletics Ticket Office by phone at 217-333-3470 or 866-ILLINI-1, on the Internet at www.fightingillini.com or in person at the Assembly Hall North Box Office.

10 Greatest Fighting Illini Quarterbacks

Jack Beynon, 1932-34

Mike Taliaferro, 1962-63

Tony Eason, 1981-82

Jack Trudeau, 1983-85

Jeff George, 1988-89

Jason Verduzco, 1989-92

Kurt Kittner, 1998-2001

Mike Wells, 1970-72

Tommy O'Connell, 1951-52

Dave Wilson, 1980

Source of story from the U of press release.


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