CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois football wraps up their regular season against Northwestern on Saturday, marking the last game at Memorial Stadium for the Illini Seniors. This is the first winning season in their careers, and the first time Illinois is bowl game eligible since 2014.
Many have been with the program longer than Lovie Smith, including 5th year senior Reggie Corbin. Corbin has become one of the Illinois’ all-time top rushers, with more than 2,000 career yeards.
The senior class also experienced another coaching change after Lovie Smith took over for Bill Cubit in 2016. Smith says the players who stuck with the program have changed the culture moving forward.
“Everything that we’re doing right now and the position we’ve gotten our program in, has as much to do with them as anyone, as they realize that,” says head coach Lovie Smith.
The Illini have several impact seniors including linebacker Dele Harding who has become one of the best linebackers in the country. Harding currently leads the Big Ten in tackles, ranking second in the nation. Seniors Dre Brown, Richie Pettibone, and Stanley Green are among others who have played an important role in the program.
“Just going through everything we’ve been through, and just to see the bright light at the end of the tunnel. It was always dark for a little minute, but we just knew the light was gonna shine eventually, and we just kept working for it,’ says defensive lineman Kenyon Jackson. “Head down, working for it every day as hard as possible. Everybody came together for the better.”
The Illini will honor 13 seniors, three red-shirt juniors, and one medical scholarship before their game against Northwestern. Kick-off is at 11 a.m. CT at Memorial Stadium.