Asmussen | Illini great Howard in NYC for Hall of Fame induction

Asmussen | Illini great Howard in NYC for Hall of Fame induction

To borrow from one of my favorite shows: Live from New York, it's Dana Howard.

The former Illini linebacker is taking the Big Apple by storm this week. With a whole bunch of helpers.

The latest Illinois inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, Howard is in New York for the National Football Foundation awards dinner tonight.

"I'm having a ball," the Illinois career tackle leader said Monday.

Howard enters the Hall of Fame along with Trevor Cobb (Rice), Kerry Collins (Penn State), Dave Dickenson (Montana), Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech), Paul Palmer (Temple), Ed Reed (Miami), Matt Stinchcomb (Georgia), Aaron Taylor (Nebraska), Charles Woodson (Michigan) and coaches Frank Beamer (Murray State, Virginia Tech), Mack Brown (Appalachian State, Tulane, North Carolina, Texas) and Mel Tjeerdsma (Austin College (Texas), Northwest Missouri State).

The players and coaches will be celebrated during a fancy black-tie dinner at the New York Hilton Midtown.

Howard is at the event with his wife Patrice, daughter Zoie and son Zade.

Father and son will be wearing tuxedos.

"We'll look like penguins," Howard said.

The Howard party goes beyond his immediate family. The 1994 Butkus Award winner said he will have 35 family and friends in attendance.

"I brought my squad along with me," Howard said.

Today, Howard and the other honorees will be a part of a press conference.

Taking it all in

The Howards arrived in New York on Saturday and won't be returning home until Wednesday.

What have they been doing? Well, there have been a few meals.

"We've been eating at different restaurants," Howard said. "Having a lot of good food."

On Sunday, Howard hung out with former teammate and current Loyola Academy head coach John Holecek. It got a bit emotional.

"John hopped up and said some words," Howard said. "It was cool."

Ask Howard and he would put Holecek in charge of the Illinois defense. Lovie Smith has an opening at defensive coordinator after the midseason resignation of Hardy Nickerson.

"John would be great at that," Howard said. "

The trip down memory lane continued for Howard on Monday night. Former Illinois head coach Lou Tepper and Howard's linebacker coach, Chris Cosh, were scheduled to have dinner with the family.

Wonder if Howard's famous "guaranteed win" against Ohio State was mentioned?

Really, Howard did nothing wrong. Somebody asked "Are you going to win?" and Howard correctly said "Yes."

He was right. Howard played the game of his life against the Buckeyes in a 24-10 victory. Howard earned Player of the Game honors and the win helped him take the Butkus, the first national individual award in program history.

Worth the wait

Howard wasn't a first-ballot Hall of Famer. In fact, the National Football Foundation doesn't keep track.

It doesn't matter to good-guy Howard. He is in now.

"I'm just happy I'm here," Howard said.

While the official induction is tonight, there are more events on the calendar, including the enshrinement at the awesome College Football Hall of Fame building in Atlanta.

Howard became the first Illini Hall of Famer since David Williams was picked in 2005.

The break was way too long. It shouldn't take 13 years before the next Illini is picked.

The Big Ten's career tackle leader has a list of Illini he wants to see follow him.

"Moe Gardner, Simeon Rice, Kevin Hardy, John Holecek and Jeff George," Howard said.

Gardner and Rice have been on the ballot in recent years. Hardy, who won the Butkus in 1995, figures to move up the list.

Howard, a star at East St. Louis, is the first Illinois linebacker picked for the Hall of Fame since legend Dick Butkus in 1983.

It's a Hall of Fame kind of year for Howard. He was also part of the second class for the school's athletic hall.

 

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

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