Illini Legends, Lists & Lore: Christmas birthdays
What better Christmas blessing for parents to receive than the precious gift of a bouncing baby boy or girl? Dec. 25 birthdays are fairly rare. A Harvard University study revealed that Sept. 16 is the most common day to be born, while Feb. 29 and Dec. 25 have the fewest birthdays. Sir Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day 370 years ago. Actor Humphrey Bogart, the star of “Casablanca,” entered the world on Dec. 25, 1899. Jimmy Buffett, Annie Lennox , Barbara Mandrell and Little Richard were all Christmas babies. Famous folks from the world of sports include baseball’s Rickey Henderson and Nellie Fox, football’s Larry Csonka, and a should-have-been Illini basketball player named Eric Gordon. But there also have been a fair share of University of Illinois sports stars who celebrate birthdays on Christmas. The list includes:
Martin Brundage, football (b. 1877): One might assume he was related to former Olympics organizer Avery Brundage, but he wasn’t. He served as the editor of the university’s student newspaper, the Illini, during the 1901-02 school year.
Harold Brownstein, wrestling (b. 1936): A member of the Illini wrestling team in the late 1950s, Brownstein advanced to the quarterfinals of the ’59 NCAA wrestling tournament in the 191-pound weight class.
Dan Beaver, football (b. 1954): He once held Illinois’ record for most field goals in a game (five vs. Purdue in 1973), and his 57-yarder vs. Purdue in 1975 still tops the UI’s list in that category.
Dave Aina, football (b. 1963): A two-time letter winner on the defensive line for coach Mike White.
Mike Locksley, football coach (b. 1969): Illinois’ offensive coordinator from 2005 to ’08, he went on to become the head coach at New Mexico. Locksley is now the coordinator at future Big Ten member Maryland.
Nate Mast, basketball (b. 1978): A two-time recipient of the Kenny Battle Award as the Illini’s most inspirational player, Mast was a 2008 inductee into the Champaign Central High School Hall of Fame. He serves as the director of basketball operations at Southern Illinois University.
Abe Souza, tennis (b. 1988): Finished his Illinois career with 99 singles wins, tying him for 12th all time in most career wins. He was the UI’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2010-11.
Sunday: Alexis Smith, basketball (19)
Monday: Mike McQuinn, football (51)
Tuesday: Richard Semrau, basketball (25)
Wednesday: Dee Maras, basketball (50)
Thursday: Bill Self, basketball coach (50)
Friday: Darrick Brownlow, football (44)
Saturday: Jim Journell, baseball (35)
By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore and assistant athletic director at Miami (Ohio)
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