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Illinois Mount Rushmore Vote: Staff Picks

The staff of TCR reveals their votes for Illinois Football's Mount Rushmore.

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

As many of you already know, The Champaign Room is partnering with the Big Ten Network in an effort to determine the "Mount Rushmore" of Illinois Football. Fans of all Big Ten schools are voting from their own list of ten candidates; the top four vote-getters from each school will be revealed on BTN Live throughout December. Here's how TCR's staff voted for the Fighting Illini:

Vainisi:

1. Red Grange

No brainer. Not only is he arguably the best player in Illinois history, but he's one of College Football's all-time greats. His number 77 has been retired by the program and they've even built him a beautiful statue outside of Memorial Stadium.

2. Dick Butkus

No brainer. Not only is he arguably the best player in Illinois history, but he's one of College Football's all-time greats. His number 50 has been retired by the program and they've even built him a beautiful statue outside of Memorial Stadium.

3. Simeon Rice

It helps that Rice played somewhat recently, but make no mistake about it--he deserves to be on this list. Rice is one of the best pass rushers in the history of Football.

4. Jim Grabowski

Jim Grabowski put up some truly impressive numbers back in the day, but what sticks out to me the most is that he was MVP of an Illinois Rose Bowl victory.

Primiano:

1. Red Grange and Dick Butkus

Butkus and Grange are just pure no-brainers, essentially the Washington and Lincoln of our Mount Rushmore. When arguably the best LB and RB in college football played at your school, they're automatically included.

3. David Williams

Williams is ultimately what we're hoping Mike Dudek turns out to be. He was basically the grandfather of all modern college receivers, just an absolute beast on the outside in a time when teams weren't nearly as pass-happy as they are nowadays.

4. Simeon Rice

One of the best pass rushers in football history and just a true defensive monster.

Silich:

1. Red Grange

Does this pick really need any further explanation? I'm curious to see how many people don't have the Galloping Ghost as number one.

2. Dick Butkus

These rankings are solely based on college football accolades, but it's hard not to factor in a bit of NFL success here as well. Butkus was a Chicago Bear for his entire professional career and it's hard not to be in awe of his achievements having grown up a Bears fan. One of, if not the, best linebackers ever.

3. David Williams

It's pretty shocking to read through David Williams' statistics and awards today. Per the BTN, he finished his career second in career receiving yards in NCAA history. Perhaps it's his rather normal name, but I had barely even heard of David Williams until I started doing more research into Illini football (around the time I started writing for TCR). Seems to be one of the more underrated players in Illini history, overshadowed by the many outstanding defenders and Red Grange.

4. Dana Howard

Simeon Rice and Dana Howard were essentially a toss-up for me here, fitting because they played together. Two Howard statistics put him over the top: he finished with over 100 tackles in all four of his seasons. It's amazing to see that kind of durability and consistency at the college level. Howard also remains Illinois' all-time leading tackler, which is incredible given the defensive talent that has come through Champaign.

Rench:

1. Red Grange

Grange is one of the founding fathers of football. He's a legend by every definition.

2. Dick Butkus

Every year, the best linebacker in college football is given the Butkus Award. To be the name on the trophy is more definitive, reverent, and amazing than any award could ever be itself.

3. Jim Grabowski

Finished as the Big Ten's all-time leading rusher back when the Big Ten was becoming the conference known for its  ground game.

4. Simeon Rice

All-time sack leader and all-time leader in making O-tackles and quarterbacks question why they ever thought the glory was worth it. Rice was scary.

Repplinger

1. Red Grange

No brainer.  He's kind of a big deal.  We even named a jersey after him and built him a statue...

2. Dick Butkus

I found a #50 throwback jersey from the opening game of 2008.  Now whenever I wear it, I get to explain to people that Dick Butkus played for the Illini.  Also a no brainier.  Statue TBD...

3. Jim Grabowski

Name the starting fullback/running back of the last Illini team to win the Rose Bowl...

Throw in that he used to call Illini games on the radio when I was growing up, and he's a legend in my mind.  My final no brainier.

4. David Williams

This one is a shout-out to my Dad.  He was a member of the Marching Illini when Illinois BEAT EVERY TEAM IN THE BIG TEN.  The Illini are the last team to accomplish that feat, and I've replicated "the dive" into the south end-zone from Williams' Michigan game many times.  Had to show some love to arguably the best team in Illini history.

Vallese:

1. Red Grange

One of if not the best player in college football history, the #1 player in the Big Ten Icons series, he's got a statue outside the stadium, poems written about him... the list goes on and on. I don't see how you couldn't put Grange on this monument.

2. Dick Butkus

The hallmark member of Illinois' long list of great linebackers. He's also one of the only Illini to have their jersey number retired, and hell, there's an award named after him. Another no-brainer to put on our Mount Rushmore.

3. Jim Grabowski

When you're a fullback and you finish third in the Heisman voting, you know you're doing something right. He also won the Sporting News player of the year, the Back of the Year award and the Big Ten's MVP award in 1965. Singlehandedly won the Rose Bowl against Washington.

4. Simeon Rice

He's got the most sacks in Big Ten history with 44.5, and to put that in perspective, Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue is second-most with 34. A whole ten and a half less sacks. He also went on to have an illustrious NFL career and was a key to Tampa Bay's Super Bowl run back in 2002.

Smith:

1. Red Grange

Obvious #1. Also the name of my dog

2. Dick Butkus

Obvious #2

3. Jim Grabowski

Many accolades and 3rd in the Heisman impresses me.

4. Simeon Rice

Gotta put someone recent right? And I actually still hear about him so he deserves the last spot.

*****

If you want to vote, make sure to check out our original post. Make sure to tune into Big Ten Network on Monday, December 15th at 5:00pm CT to see the reveal of Illinois Football's Mount Rushmore.