TownNews.com Content Exchange

CHAMPAIGN — Former NFL star Simeon Rice and basketball stars Eddie Johnnson and Deon Thomas headline the University of Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2019, announced Wednesday.

Rice, Johnson and Thomas are two of 16 members of the latest class, including athletes and coaches from 11 different teams.

The class will be inducted during a ceremony at State Farm Center on Friday, Sept. 20, during the Hall of Fame Celebration Weekend.

Rice, a Chicago Mount Carmel graduate, ended his Illini career in 1995 as the Big Ten's all-time leader in the quarterback sacks and as a two-time All-American. Rice played in the NFL from 1996 to 2007 for Arizona, Tampa Bay, Denver and Indianapolis. He was named NFL All-Pro four times and was part of the Super Bowl XXXVII champion Buccaneers.

Johnson, a Chicago Westinghouse graduate, finished as Illinois' all-time leader in scoring (1,692 points) and rebounds (831) before a distinguished NBA career in which he scored 19,202 points over 17 seasons.

Thomas, a Chicago Simeon graduate who was the 1989 Illinois Mr. Basketball, broke Johnson's Illini scoring record and still holds the school record with 2,129 points. He was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks but went on to a 15-year career overseas.

The other member of the men's basketball program to be honored is Don Freeman, who still holds the school record for season scoring average of 27.8 points in 1966.

Other football players were J.C. Caroline, Bobby Mitchell and David Williams. Caroline and Williams are both members of the College Football Hall of Fame, while Mitchell is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Also being inducted is Angela Bizzarri Pflugrath, Illinois' most decorated distance runner after winning three NCAA titles, and Joseph Giallombardo, still the NCAA co-record holder in the number of times he won an individual event at the NCAA championships with seven gold medals. He's a member of the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

Amer Delic is Illinois' only player to win the NCAA tennis singles title when he helped Illinois win the NCAA team championship in 2003. Bob Norman won NCAA and Big Ten Championships in the heavyweight division in 1957 and 1958 while finishing his career undefeated (36-0-1) as a collegiate wrestler.

Sports represented for the first time in the Hall of Fame are women's basketball, women's tennis, softball and men's swimming and diving.

Former Big Ten Player of the Year Ashley Berggren led the Illini to the 1997 basketball conference championship. Lindsey Nimmo Bristow is Illinois' only Big Ten Conference Women's Tennis Player of the Year, earning the honor in 1993. Softball player Jenna Hall was First-Team All-Big Ten all four years at Illinois and set nearly every hitting record during her UI career. Joe Hunsaker won a national title in the pool for the Illini before embarking on a long career as a national leader in the swimming and diving community.

The only non-athlete inducted into the 2019 class is former men's track and field and cross country coach Gary Wieneke. He led Illinois to 13 Big Ten Conference championships in his 36 years as head coach. Wieneke has been inducted into the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Association (USTFCCCA), Drake Relays, Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association and the East Moline High School Halls of Fame.

This article originally ran on herald-review.com.

Locations

Load comments