Former Fighting Illini running back Daniel Dufrene has passed away at the age of 29, The News-Gazette confirmed on Tuesday. Dufrene was a member of Illinois’ 2007 Rose Bowl team, and he ran for 1,234 yards during his career (2007-09).
The Fort Lauderdale, FL native originally signed with Vanderbilt out of high school and attended for one semester before transferring to a junior college. He eventually elected to join Illinois over other offers from UCLA and Louisville.
During his first year with the Orange and Blue, Dufrene played in all 13 games as a backup to Rashard Mendenhall. The biggest game of Dufrene’s career also occurred that season, as he played an integral role in Illinois’ upset of No. 1 Ohio State; he ended up with 106 yards on the ground, including an 80-yard rush on the team’s second play from scrimmage.
Dufrene continued to be a mainstay of Illinois’ backfield following Mendenhall’s departure. He saw a combined 217 touches over his final two seasons, resulting in 1,258 yards.
Funeral arrangements have yet to be posted, however a gofundme page has been set up to help cover the expenses. The following message was also shared:
In August of 2016, we lost a great light in our family. Words can't begin to explain the love we have for our brother, uncle, cousin, newphew, son, friend, teammate, and coach Daniel Dufrene.
With the tragic and sudden loss of our beloved Daniel, we ask if anyone can donate to funeral service to appropriately honor and celebrate the life and memory of the quiet, ambitious, energetic son of Haiti (By the way of the Bahamas).
We look forward to meeting everyone and thank you all for your prayers and well wishes.
Rest in peace, Daniel. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones.