Smith encourages community involvement

Smith encourages community involvement

URBANA — They laid down on the Memorial Stadium turf Monday, wearing special Illini glasses. Then, they looked into space.

For about 15 minutes, the entire Illinois football team watched the solar eclipse.

"It was awesome," offensive lineman Gabe Megginson said. "It's a big deal. I was just happy to see it."

The players were given instructions to keep their eclipse glasses on. They followed the rules. Mostly.

"Everybody peeked for a second," Megginson said. "It was like 'Let's see how bad it is.' They regretted it instantly. I did."

Megginson is keeping his glasses for future eclipse viewing. The next one will be April 8, 2024.

Illinois coach Lovie Smith wants his players to experience life beyond football.

"When you have something that is going to happen once in your lifetime that's pretty neat," Smith said. "It was big for the University of Illinois. Guys really got into it."

Megginson said special events like Monday help the team grow closer.

"That's a huge deal," he said. "We'll probably never experience that again, I can always talk to my kids and tell them 'I was spending it with my boys at the facilities that day.' "

The players were in meetings until noon, followed by some free time.

The coaches said "Be out there for sure," Megginson said.

Smith has told the players he wants them involved in the community. And to stand up for what they believe.

"I've never been a political guy," Megginson said. "I've never really read about it. I've just kind of let it be. But after he said that, I've tried to look into it.

"It is cool to see guys very active in things they believe in."


A pair of Illini who were hurt during Saturday's practice didn't participate Monday. Linebacker Jake Hansen has a knee injury and safety Patrick Nelson has an injured shoulder.

Smith didn't provide details on the injuries.

"We'll continue to monitor it," he said.


A crew from BTN will be at practice today, part of a 14-stop tour of the Big Ten campuses. They will talk to the Illinois players and coaches. A show about the Illini will air on BTN later today.