East coast cheers

By Erik Hall

When Super Bowl XXXIX kicks off Sunday, the die-hard Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots fans will not be limited to the East Coast. Several East Coast natives have resettled in Champaign on Illinois’ teams but will be cheering for their hometown favorites.

“I’m from Connecticut so pretty much I grew up a Patriots fan,” said men’s track senior Josh Fournier. “The way that they’ve been playing I expect (the Patriots) to win again.”

Fournier is the only Illinois varsity athlete from a state east of New York, but the Eagles’ fan base has made a larger move to the Illini. Twelve Illinois athletes are from the Eagles’ fan base of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“I watch all the games that they broadcast out here, and I like the team in general,” said wrestler Kyle Chandler.

Chandler is from Coatesville, Pa., which is about 40 miles from Philadelphia. He hopes to see the Eagles snap the City of Brotherly Loves’ streak of 22 years without a professional championship.

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“I honestly think the Eagles can win as long as they play their game and they play tough-nosed football,” Chandler said. “I think the factor will really come down to (Brian) Westbrook and the Eagles defense being able to stop (Tom) Brady.”

Illinois women’s basketball coach Theresa Grentz endured the Eagles’ last Super Bowl appearance. The Eagles lost to the Raiders 27-10 in Super Bowl XV.

“We lost to Oakland, and it was very devastating,” said Grentz, a Philadelphia native. “This year, I hope good things happen.”

Grentz said she never developed an interest in football or the Eagles. Her husband, Karl, is all set to enjoy the weekend’s game.

“Karl has got his Eagles sweatshirt clean for Sunday and the cheese steaks have been ordered,” Grentz said. “I’m not an Eagles fan, but I’m married to the biggest Eagles fan so therefore I’m a bird rooter this week.”

The Grentz household will only be cheering for the Eagles on Sunday.

Fournier is not as lucky. All season, his roommate Tim Hobbs has cheered against the Patriots.

“My roommate is from Chicago and is a big Bears fan. He likes to root specifically against the Patriots,” Fournier said. “Every Sunday that I watch them play, he likes to root against them. It is mainly Bears and Colts fans here because of where the University is. Of everyone I know, I’m probably the biggest Pats fan out here.”

Football player Kieron Frazier hopes to see the Patriots get “shut out” Sunday.

Frazier got to know Eagles players such as Brian Dawkins, Freddie Mitchell and Ike Reese during the four years that Frazier’s dad, Leslie, served as an Eagles’ assistant coach.

“I’m definitely looking for Freddie Mitchell to put on his show,” Frazier said. “During the last game, he came out on fire so I’m going to watch him. I’m looking for him to do something.”

Frazier knows he will be one of the few Illini cheering Sunday who has been on the Eagles or Patriots bandwagon for more than two weeks.

“There are a few Eagles fans here, but not too many people from the East Coast go here,” Frazier said.

Super Bowl XXXIX will get loud cheers from Champaign on Sunday, even if the fans are not at home on the East Coast.

“Watching the games brings a piece of home to Champaign,” Fournier said.