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Why I’m An Illini Fan: Jacob Rajlich

It wasn’t my choice, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

2005 NCAA 2nd Round: Illinois Fighting Illini v Nevada Wolf Pack Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

I’ve been an Illini fan my entire life. Many people know me for my passion and love of Illini Athletics. It’s something that’s been with me for my entire life, and I can’t picture it leaving me anytime soon. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I’m an Illini fan, as it’s been a part of me for longer than I can even remember.

I started going to basketball games when I was only a few months old, and my earliest memories of anything are of Illini games, sitting up in section C28, row 11. While those memories were more focused around met eating the popcorn and snickerdoodles, I do have vague recollections of the game. The atmosphere of gameday in the “House of ‘Paign” was electric growing up, and I dreamed of being in the Orange Krush one day.

I’m a third generation Illini. My grandfather and I both studied civil engineering here. My parents both went to Illinois. Quite literally, I was born to be an Illinois fan, and I’m as close as you can be to literally bleeding orange and blue.

I have been lucky enough to attend Illinois, but I was even luckier to have played and coached basketball for the University of Illinois...Laboratory High School Illineks. Attending the university’s high school was great, but the coolest thing by far was the fact that I got to play in H.E. Kenney Gymnasium, the original home of Illinois basketball. As a kid who grew up wearing Illinois gear all the time, being able to put on the orange and blue jerseys of Uni High was as close as I’d get to a childhood dream of playing for the Fighting Illini.

And then finally, I made it to Illinois. I joined the Orange Krush, and all the other student sections. I had finally made it to the floor, 18 years later. I’ll never forget walking down for the first time as a member of the Krush, into the freshly renovated State Farm Center. My two years at Illinois so far have been great, and have only made me an even crazier Illini fan. I work with other superfans coordinating student sections through Illini Pride, and you can see me at most Illinois events in a bright orange suit.

While the performances of our teams haven’t been the greatest since I’ve been here at Illinois, I’m excited to see what the future holds. Every program goes through its highs and lows and I’ve experienced each firsthand, from the 2004-05 season to the situation in the last few years. However, I believe in our programs and in the direction we’re headed.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for our teams, but I’ll be cheering on the Illini regardless, next year and 50 years down the road.