February 7th, 2013, the Illini were in a rut, and got the reward of playing #1 Indiana at home. "Just keep it close" I prayed. "Close enough to not be an embarrassment."
Waiting in line with my fellow members of Orange Krush, the butterflies came as they always do before a game. We entered the game, and the Illini were down 12 at half. "Here we go I thought" as I was sitting down for half. The Illini were down, and it seemed the Hoosiers would put the game to bed early.
Then came the second half. Behind a tremendous showing from Orange Krush, the Illini got back in the game. I cheered louder than I ever had. I wanted this game more than any game I've ever been too. I needed it. We all did.
DJ Richardson scored 8 straight points, and the Hall got as loud as I've ever heard it. Brandon Paul's free throws to tie the game somehow both went in. The first bounced off the backboard, the rim and the backboard again before heading into the hoop. I knew then that luck was with us. We had a shot.
The Hoosiers turned the ball over, and we were ready to explode. Victor Oladipo then made a tremendous block to send the game to OT, or so we thought.
There was 0.9 seconds left. "WE HAVE A SHOT! WE HAVE A SHOT!"
This is by far the best memory I've had so far during my two years at Illinois. I owe it all to one thing, being convinced to join Illini Pride as a freshman.
Illini Pride is the largest and best student organization at Illinois. For only $25, you can be a part of the best group of students at Illinois.
Our goal is to support all of our athletic teams with all the passion they deserve. For each sport, Illini Pride has a student group. Orange Krush and Block I you have surely heard of, but we also have Spike Squad for volleyball (the best in the nation), Blue Crew for Women's Basketball, Grounds Crew for baseball, Pool Sharks for swimming, and many more. All of the sports besides Men's Basketball and Football are free for students to attend, so joining the groups outside of Orange Krush and Block I is free.
Each section has its own t-shirt and offers incentives for attending games. Hot Shots gave out soccer scarves, absolutely free for its members, for attending at least three games. That alone is worth the $25 fee.
Members of Block I. Photo courtesy of Craig Pressman
But there's much more....
You can join Orange Krush; the best student section in the entire nation, and it's not close. Not only are we the most creative section, and one of the loudest, but we also raise money for charity. To join Krush, our members do not buy tickets. Instead, we pledge money for each three point shot the Illini make, and the Orange Krush foundation has already raised over 2.5 million dollars for local charities in the Champaign area.
There is no way to explain the feeling of rushing the court against Indiana, except for its one of the best feelings a person can experience, and you don't want to miss the next time it happens. Being in Orange Krush is a decision you will never regret. Joining Krush is by far the best decision I've made in college.
But there's more....
If you choose to buy Block I tickets, which only cost $134 dollars for all 7 home football games, including the Chicago game (an absolute steal), you will be a part of one of the oldest and most prestigious football student sections in America. The cost of the tickets also covers your Illini Pride Membership fees.
We sit in the North End Zone, some of the best seats in Memorial Stadium, and we are the heartbeat of the gameday atmosphere.
We have free tailgates each week, with free food, games and giveaways. We have weekly pep rallies at different venues. We have played football at Memorial Stadium in the past, and hope to do it again in the future. You will also meet football players and coaches at our pep rallies that we hold; a privilege not many are given.
You also will be part of one of the greatest traditions of Illinois football; the halftime card stunts. Each week, we are one of only two schools in the country that does a full card stunt show each and every game. We coordinate with the band to create our stunts to go with the halftime show. You get to be a part of a great tradition at Illinois.
Well worth the $25, but there's still more...
Roadtrips. Orange Krush, Spike Squad and Block I all hold road trips for our most loyal members, completely free of charge. Last year, I with the other members of Block who received enough road trip points, sat in the 6th row of Ohio Stadium to watch the Illini take on the Buckeyes, for free. $134 to join Block is lower than the price of those tickets, but I didn't pay a thing.
Orange Krush also holds roadtrips that run the same way that Block I does, but we do it with more style. We do sneak attacks. We dress up as opposing fans, not revealing that we are Orange Krush until tip off.
Last year, we went to Northwestern, and the 150 of us were louder than the entire Northwestern basketball "fanbase" for the entire game. We also took over their halftime games, because Northwestern sucks that's why.
$25 to join Illini Pride and you get all that? Yep, AND...
You will make some of the best friends you will ever have. Outside of my roommates I had freshman year, all my closest friends in college have come from Illini Pride. We have over 3,000 members. It's one of the best ways to meet new people and to have fun.
In the end, there is no reason not to join Illini Pride and get involved. It's the best decision you will ever make, so make it now!
Go to IlliniPride.com for more details on how to join. Feel free to email me personally (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions about Block I, Illini Pride and Orange Krush. I am one of the student leaders of Block I and I can answer any questions you have.
It's the best $25 dollars, or $134 if you join Block I, that you will ever spend. You will be a part of one of the best student fan bases in college sports. You will receive more free t-shirts than you know what to do with. You can go on roadtrips to other Big Ten schools for absolutely free. Most importantly, you will make some of the best friends you will ever have, all while getting to watch the Illini play. What else are you going to do with $25? Join now.
Purchase tickets for Block I now, and start collecting your pledges for Orange Krush. There's no reason not to, unless you hate having fun like Tom Fornelli does.