Illini Legends, Lists & Lore: Happy 26th birthday, Josh Brent!

Illini Legends, Lists & Lore: Happy 26th birthday, Josh Brent!

Celebrating his 86th birthday Monday is former Illini baseball and football star Dick “Rocky” Raklovits. On his 23rd birthday, he was selected as the third baseman on the 1951 American Baseball Coaches Association All-America team.

The shortstop on that all-star squad was future Pittsburgh Pirates standout Dick Groat, who then played for Duke. Raklovits was an all-state football and baseball player at Chicago’s Fenger High School.

As a safety and running back in 1949 for coach Ray Eliot, he played principally on defense but also averaged 5.5 yards per rush in limited carries. Raklovits reached football stardom in 1950, earning first-team All-Big Ten and honorable mention All-America laurels.

He led the conference in rushing with 709 yards and paced the Illini in scoring with eight touchdowns. Twice during his gridiron career, Raklovits rushed for 100-plus yards, including a career-best 122 yards against Michigan in 1950. The Detroit Lions offered him a contract, but he turned it down to pursue a career in baseball, which he considered his stronger sport.

For the Illini “9” in 1949, he led the team in runs, thanks to a UI single-season-record seven home runs. Raklovits had a sensational senior campaign on the diamond in 1951, leading the Illini in hits, runs, steals and average (.387).

He signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers after graduating from Illinois and played with the St. Paul Saints of the American Association. After a stint in the military, Illinois hired him as an assistant football coach and as freshman baseball coach.

Western Michigan hired Raklovits as its assistant football coach in 1957, and he continued in that role with the Broncos for 17 years. After leaving the football staff, he served as an instructor at WMU in health, physical education and recreation. Raklovits continues to reside in Kalamazoo with his family.

Illini birthdays
Sunday: Bucky Godbolt, football coach (59)
Monday: Amer Delic, tennis (32)
Tuesday: Rich Adams, basketball (58)
Wednesday: Josh Brent, football (26)
Thursday: Casey Burden, golf (28)
Friday: Michael Hoomanawanui, football (26)
Saturday: Jeff Innis, baseball (52)

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore

Get Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter @B1GLLL and on Facebook at Big Ten Legends, Lists & Lore