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Big Ten Network Vote: Illinois Football Mount Rushmore

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The Champaign Room is partnering with the Big Ten Network to determine the "Mount Rushmore" of Illinois Football.

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Illinois has been fielding a Football team since 1890. In the 124-year history of the team, the Fighting Illini have claimed five national championships, fifteen conference titles, and twenty-four consensus All-Americans have taken the field in Orange and Blue.

It's clear that Illinois is one of the more storied programs in the Big Ten, but what's unclear is who the program's all-time best players are. Who makes up the "Mount Rushmore" of Illinois Football?

The Champaign Room is proud to announce a partnership with the Big Ten Network as we attempt to name the best players in Fighting Illini Football History.

Online voting will identify four former student-athletes from each Big Ten Football program. Each school's Mount Rushmore will be revealed on BTN Live beginning on Thursday, December 11. Here's the schedule:

Thursday, Dec. 11 at 10 p.m. ET: Penn State and Purdue

Friday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. ET: Iowa and Michigan

Monday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. ET: Wisconsin and Illinois

Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. ET: Nebraska and Indiana

Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 6 p.m. ET: Ohio State and Northwestern

Thursday, Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. ET: Michigan State and Maryland

Friday, Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. ET: Minnesota and Rutgers

So without further adieu, here are the ten candidates for Illinois Football's Mount Rushmore:

Alex Agase (1941-42, 1946)

  • College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 1963
  • Walter Camp Foundation All-Century Team, 1989 & University of Illinois All-Century Team, 1990
  • Three-time consensus All-American (1942-43, 1946; 1943 All-American at Purdue while assigned for WWII service)
  • After earning Purple Heart for service in WWII, returned to Illinois in 1946 and led Illini to 1947 Rose Bowl win over USC
  • Chicago Tribune Silver Football, 1946

Al Brosky (1950-52)

  • College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 1998
  • 1951 consensus All-American
  • Led Illini to undefeated 9-0-1 record in 1951 including the 1952 Rose Bowl victory over Stanford
  • Set NCAA career record for INT’s (29) which still stands; Set Big Ten Conference record with 11 INT’s in 1950
  • Illini were 20-7-1 during his career including 1951 National Championship according to Boand System

Dick Butkus (1962-64)

  • College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 1983 & Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 1979
  • Walter Camp Foundation All-Century Team, 1989
  • One of two players to have their number retired by Illinois (#50)
  • Finished 3rd in Heisman Trophy voting, 1964; Finished 6th in 1963
  • Since 1995 the nation’s top linebacker has received the "Butkus Award"

J.C. Caroline (1953-54)

  • College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 1980
  • Finished 7th in Heisman Trophy voting, 1953
  • Led nation & in rushing as a sophomore in 1953 (Big Ten record 1,256 yds)
  • Led Illini to unbeaten 7-0-1 record & #7 ranking in the nation
  • NFL World Champion, 1963 (Chicago Bears)

Moe Gardner (1987-90)

  • Two-time consensus All-American (1989-90) & Three-time All-Big Ten selection (1988-90)
  • Two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, 1989-90
  • Big Ten Lineman of the Year, 1990
  • Led Illini to Big Ten Co-Championship, 1990
  • In 1990, Coach John Mackovic called him "the best player at any position in college football"

Jim Grabowski (1963-65)

  • College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 1995 & Rose Bowl Hall of Fame Inductee, 1997
  • Finished 3rd in Heisman Trophy voting, 1965
  • Two-time AP All-American Fullback (1964-65)
  • Finished career as Big Ten’s all-time leading rusher (2,878 yds)
  • MVP of 1964 Rose Bowl win over Washington (125 yds rushing)

Red Grange (1923-25)

  • Charter member of the College (1951) & Pro (1963) Halls of Fame
  • Walter Camp Foundation All-Century Team, 1989
  • Three-time consensus All-American halfback, 1923-25
  • Chicago Tribune Silver Football, 1924
  • #1, BTN's "Big Ten Icons" honoring conference's greatest athletes

Dana Howard (1991-94)

  • Butkus and Lambert Awards (Nation’s top Linebacker), 1995
  • Two-time First-Team All-American, 1993-94
  • Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, 1993-94
  • Illini’s all-time leading tackler (595)
  • Recorded at least 100 tackles in each of his four seasons

Simeon Rice (1992-95)

  • Two-time consensus All-American (1994-95) & Three-time All-Big Ten selection (1993-95)
  • Finished career with most QB Sacks in Big Ten history (44.5)
  • Big Ten Freshmen of the Year, 1992
  • Part of greatest LB trio in college football history with Dana Howard and Kevin Hardy
  • Super Bowl XXXVII Champion (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

David Williams (1983-85)

  • College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 2005
  • Illinois All-Century Team, 1990
  • Two-time consensus All-American (1984-85)
  • Finished career as 2nd leading receiver in NCAA history
  • Still holds school records for career receptions, yards and TD’s

Make sure to vote either above or at BTN.com. Who makes up your Mount Rushmore of Illinois Football? Are there any players that you believe should've been listed, but missed the cut? Let us know below in the comments. We'll reveal our personal lists later in the week in a separate article.

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