Illini athletes prepare for Jock Jams charity event


Austin Yattoni

Illinois head football coach Lovie Smith (center) joins tight end Bobby Walker (83) and offensive lineman Joe Spencer (71) in singing Hail to the Orange after the game against Murrary State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 3. The Illini won 52-3.

By Gavin Good, Staff writer

Illinois student-athletes will be using their talents for something other than sports, putting in hours of extra work to prepare for the Eighth Annual Jock Jams variety show. The charity event will be held at Foellinger Auditorium on Monday at 7:30 p.m.

Rather than going up against intimidating defensive lineman, senior Joe Spencer has been helping lead preparations for the event. In his second year as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at Illinois, Spencer said he is looking forward to putting on a show that will raise a lot of money for charity and provide some quality entertainment for those in attendance.

“We are excited for Monday night,” Spencer said. “It is a lot of fun, and it’s funny too because all these athletes play in front of larger crowds but get more nervous for Jock Jams than a game.”

The proceeds will be donated to a variety of causes including Feeding Our Kids, which provides meals for impoverished children in Champaign County. The money raised will go toward Hilarity for Charity, Seth Rogen’s organization that helps raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease affecting millennials and Uplifting Athletes, which aligns college football programs with rare diseases in order to bring them to more awareness.

Illinois football’s sect of the organization is focused on acoustic neuroma, a type of slow-growing tumor in the nerve where the ear connects to the brain. It started at Illinois in 2012 after offensive lineman Andrew Carter was diagnosed with acoustic neuroma and never played football again.

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Junior softball player Jill Nicklas has also taken a leadership position with Jock Jams and has been a part of the fundraising effort. The fundraising has drawn heavy support from alumni and Illini Pride, the student organization that supports Illinois athletics.

Nicklas said the goal of Jock Jams is simple.

“The goal this year is to raise more money than last year,” Nicklas said. “It’s always our goal.”

Nicklas believes the event will be full of spectators, with the Marching Illini coming to the event. The band’s director, Barry Houser, will be co-hosting the event along with Spencer. Nicklas is excited to see Illinois’ teams battle it out in song, dance, comedy and other miscellaneous skills.

“Everyone gets pretty competitive with this stuff,” Nicklas said. “Football is a little mad they didn’t win last year.”

Jenna Miller, a senior midfielder for women’s soccer, has been a part of selling tickets, organizing rehearsals for the athletes and gathering support from the Illinois athletic community.

In addition to the show, Jock Jams will also have an auction that boasts items such as an autographed USA Basketball jersey and shoes from Illinois men’s basketball legend Deron Williams, as well as a signed Blackhawks jersey from Duncan Keith. Other items include an autographed mini basketball from Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler and lunch with Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman.

For Miller, Jock Jams will provide an opportunity to give back to a community that has supported her throughout her years as an Illini.

“It means a whole lot to be honest,” Miller said. “It really brings the whole athletic community together, from the aspect of helping out charities as well as being able to interact with teams you might not interact with during the full year.”

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