Top of the Morning, March 5, 2014

Top of the Morning, March 5, 2014

I called Jeff Finke on Tuesday to see if he waved to his former Illinois football teammate, Mike Hopkins, who was high above C-U in his role as a NASA astronaut.

Hopkins tipped off his whereabouts by tweeting this photo: "Hey, University of Illinois. It took a while, but I finally got a cloud free pass. Looking good!"

Like many of us, Finke has kept up with Hopkins' months-long stint in space by following him on Twitter, where he has posted a series of eye-catching photos — everything from the southern lights to downtown Chicago. Hopkins, a former Illinois football captain, is scheduled to return to Earth on Monday.

"I'm proud and happy for him," Finke said. "He still looks like the Mike Hopkins I knew in 1990."

— State Farm Center, which is visible in Hopkins' Tuesday tweet, is where Michael Finke — Jeff's oldest son — will perform next season. Presumably as a basketball player.

The Illini signee has theatrical skills, too, earning the lead role in Centennial High's spring musical, "Damn Yankees," which debuts April 2.

"He's expanding his horizons," said Jeff Finke, adding that Michael doesn't have much acting or singing experience.

His role includes several solos.

"The only time I've heard him sing is in the shower," Jeff said.

The high school's drama director, Sue Aldridge, said Finke "nailed it" during his audition. Also playing a prominent role in "Damn Yankees" is Centennial junior Jimmy Fitzgerald, another Illinois recruit (football).

"I'm not the director; I'm the coach," Aldridge joked. "They're great guys who push each other."

Aldridge said she cleared it with Finke's parents and basketball coach before naming him to tackle the role of Joe Boyd.

"Should he go on Broadway? Maybe not," she said. "But Michael has a presence about him. I figure if he can do this, he can do anything."

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