Long live the Illini legacy

Homecoming weekend is when school spirit and tradition reach their peak, coming to life with the Marching Illini, Illinettes and cheerleaders.

These students bleed orange and blue every Saturday. After hours and hours of preparation each week, they are right there next to the football players, energizing the crowd throughout the game.

But for some of these Illini, orange and blue blood is hereditary. Behind them are alumni parents, who, years ago, cheered just as loud as they do today; school spirit is a family tradition.

One of the greatest, longest standing traditions at the University is the Marching Illini — no football game would be whole without the soundtrack they provide.

For Rebecca Williams, senior in Education, it’s the family way. Williams’ parents met as members of the marching band and brought her to many home games as a child. She always knew she wanted to be part of the tradition her parents and aunt were so fond of.

“I definitely feel that loyalty to the U of I and to Marching Illini especially,” she said. “It’s a big family tradition — something we pride ourselves on.”

Her father, Rod Williams, said he loves to return to the University, especially to watch his daughter.

“It still gives you chills to see them spelling out Illini,” he said. “The whole thing is still such a rush, and it makes you realize why you went (to the University).”

The Williams’ continue to enjoy the Marching Illini, both watching their daughter and participating themselves. Each year, they perform at Homecoming with other alumni in the “fossil band.”

“It gives you a chance to relive those days … the band has such loyalty to it,” he said.

Dancing along side the Marching Illini are the Illinettes, whose sideline routines are always fun to watch.

For Eryn Clasey, sophomore in ACES, the best part of dancing on the field is performing for the people she’s known her whole life. Growing up in Champaign, Clasey and her family attended football games every weekend.

“It’s the best feeling out there, to recognize hundreds of people that you know and to be representing Champaign,” she said.

Clasey’s parents are both alumni of the University and love to see her on the field. Clasey’s mom, Debbie, said their school spirit hasn’t grown since Eryn joined the Illinettes, but instead evolved.

“We were pretty big fans when we were younger, and it’s rewarding and exciting to see your family continue enjoying the game as much as we did,” she said.

The sidelines wouldn’t be complete without the cheerleaders, who are there to invoke spirit and wow the crowd with their gravity defying stunts.

Luke Schubert, freshman in LAS, grew up cheering for the Illini. When he was accepted, his decision to attend the University was easy since his parents and other family members did also.

Now that Schubert is on the field, his parents make it out to almost every game. His mother, Amy Schubert, said she loves seeing him in the school colors and watching him perform stunts and tricks.

“It gives you goose bumps to see him out there,” she said. “I think it’s so neat watching him … I look at it and I can’t even believe it — I still feel like a college kid myself.”