DI Voices | Block I helped me find myself

Senior+columnist+Noah+Nelson+with+other+members+of+Block+I+following+the+Illini%E2%80%99s+victory+for+the+Homecoming+game+against+Wisconsin+on+Oct.+9.+Noah+expresses+how+grateful+he+is+for+his+experience+with+Block+I+in+creating+many+unforgettable+memories.+

Photo courtesy of Noah Nelson

Senior columnist Noah Nelson with other members of Block I following the Illini’s victory for the Homecoming game against Wisconsin on Oct. 9. Noah expresses how grateful he is for his experience with Block I in creating many unforgettable memories.

By Noah Nelson, Senior Columnist

I have always enjoyed Saturday mornings. Whether it was checking out books at the local library with my grandma, eating McDonald’s breakfast with my dad over cartoons or playing little league baseball, Saturday has been one of my favorite days of the week.

At the University every fall, I spent my Saturdays at the historic Memorial Stadium. I wasn’t just a fan, but a member of the football fan club, Block I, under the umbrella of Illini Pride. The club deepened my love for sports, and most importantly, it helped me find myself.

During my freshman year at the University, many of my friends and I attended home Illini football games. Sitting in the North Endzone, the student section location, we took part in all of the game-day festivities: singing “Alma Mater” at halftime, cheering the Illini to victory, and most of all, participating in the historic card stunts.

I knew I wanted to be a part of Block I even more, so I applied to be a Blockhead for my sophomore year. All of us Blockheads were in charge of our tailgate in Grange Grove, making sure the section stayed loud during the game and managing card stunts at halftime.

Since 1921, University students have taken part in this historic tradition at each game of every season. With the assistance of a small card, each member in Block I holds up a colored plastic card corresponding to the number held up by a Blockhead. It sounds confusing, but most of the time, it makes a beautiful card formation of something pertaining to the University, like Alma Mater or the Block I itself.

Card stunts were our major worry at each game, but every one of them turned out great. The University was the first school to start card formations, and we wanted to keep up with tradition. I knew I was a part of such a historic club on campus, so I wanted to cement my time with the organization in the best way possible.

At each game during my sophomore and senior year, I ran around the North Endzone sporting my orange and blue jersey to encourage all of my fellow Illini to cheer on our team. I led many of the famous “I-L-L” chants. I high-fived almost everyone I could. I made sure everyone was hyped for the game during all four quarters.

With the help of one buddy sporting an orange and blue jumpsuit and a wig to match, we managed to keep everyone on their feet, even at times when the Illini were falling short in the game. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my Saturdays.

Block I has allowed me to be myself, meet countless other fellow Illini and make my mark at the University. Because of the organization, I met head coaches Lovie Smith and Bret Bielema, rushed the field after defeating Wisconsin at Homecoming in 2019, and helped put up the field goal nets at Soldier Field when Illinois fell to South Florida in 2018.

I don’t know what I would’ve done with my time on Saturday mornings in the fall if it weren’t for Illini football, my fellow fans and Block I itself. It’s an organization like no other, with Orange Krush coming in as a close second.

I will never forget any time spent in the North Endzone. Block I created some of my favorite moments on campus, and I will cherish those memories for many years to come. I-L-L!

 

Noah is a senior in Media.

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