Whatever happened to: Mr. Blue Hands Man

Whatever happened to: Mr. Blue Hands Man

CHAMPAIGN — The man in charge of Champaign County's Toys for Tots program was shopping for children's gifts one day in December when a stranger stopped him in the aisle with that familiar "Aren't you ..." look.

A decade later, Ceasar Perez still can't go anywhere around town without someone giving "Mr. Blue Hands Man" the star treatment.

"I blinked, and it's been 10 years," Perez said with a hearty laugh. "I kid you not, even without any makeup on, people still walk up to me and ask if I'm that guy."

The gregarious Perez became almost as recognizable as Dee Brown, Deron Williams and other household names on the 2004-05 Illinois men's basketball team. Not just locally but nationally.

Everyone enjoyed watching the guy who'd dress up for game days in the Hulk-like hands, painted blue with an orange block I, while covering his shaved head and chest with orange paint and other sayings to show his Illini pride. It was easy for the TV cameras to pick him out of a packed house when he was dressed in a rather outlandish way, cheering on Illinois.

His big moment arrived on Dec. 1, 2004, during an early-season showdown between then-No. 1 Wake Forest and then-No. 3 Illinois at the then-Assembly Hall.

"I had the hands earlier in that season and it was no big deal, but I knew I had to do something big for the Wake Forest game," Perez said. "I just decided to shave everything from the waist up and put a big block I on the hands. It was kind of cool and fun and flattering to be recognized, but it was me being a fan of the Illini.

"If you're not going to go all in, why bother?"

Now married, the 42-year-old Perez coordinates the Toys for Tots program and owns Crystal Entertainment, a DJ company that staffs weddings and other events in Champaign, Bloomington and elsewhere in central Illinois. In his spare time, he also helps the Urbana High School wrestling team as an assistant coach and is part of the Illini Rebounders, the men's basketball booster club.

Perez graduated from Illinois in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in speech communication and received his executive MBA from Notre Dame in 2014. Yet he still looks back most fondly on his time supporting the Illini while wearing those unforgettable blue hands.

"I was a junior that season because I had come back to school after being in the Marine Corps, and I came back to finish my degree after I got out," Perez said. "I didn't know how I could be a part of Orange Krush. It was Quad Day in 2004, and they were like, 'Yeah, this is how you sign up for it.'

"From that point on, I was all in. I wanted the full college experience, so that's how it came about."

Topics (1):People

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loweez67 wrote on February 03, 2015 at 3:02 pm

I work with Ceasar during Toys for Tots.  He is such an aweseom person with an outstanding personality!! 

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