Happy birthday: Trent Meacham

Happy birthday: Trent Meacham

Illini Legends, Lists & Lore

Tony Butkovich

Sixty-eight years ago today marked Ray Eliot's debut as head coach of the Illini football team. Illinois defeated South Dakota 46-0, led by a two-touchdown performance by fullback Tony Butkovich. A native of St. David, Butkovich and his 1942 Illini teammates were among college football's best units, rising to No. 5 in the national rankings following upset victories against reigning national champion Minnesota (20-13) and No. 19 Iowa (12-7) on Oct. 10 and 17, respectively. Though losing consecutive games to No. 8 Notre Dame (21-14) and No. 13 Michigan (28-14) the following two weeks, Illinois remained in the AP Top 20. Butkovich spent his final college football season at Purdue in 1943, when he went to West Lafayette as a Marine in training for the war effort. His highlight in '43 was a four-touchdown effort against the Illini, averaging a mind-boggling 17.2 yards per carry. That season, he snapped the 21-year-old Big Ten scoring record of 78 points while rushing for a Purdue-record 833 yards, leading the Boilermakers to a 9-0 record. Butkovich was named to the All-America team and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy balloting. He was a first-round draft pick by the Cleveland Rams in the 1944 NFL draft, but he never played professional football. Twelve months later, on April 18, 1945, Butkovich was killed in action in a World War II battle at Okinawa. The top nine in the 1943 Heisman Trophy balloting:

1. Angelo Bertelli, Notre Dame, QB

2. Bob Odell, Penn, HB

3. Otto Graham, Northwestern, QB

4. Creighton Miller, Notre Dame, HB

5. Eddie Prokop, Georgia Tech, RB

6. Hal Hamburg, Navy, HB

7. Bill Daley, Michigan, FB

8. Tony Butkovich, Purdue, FB

9. Jim White, Notre Dame, T

Illini Birthdays

Today: Trent Meacham, basketball (25)

Monday: Manuel Strong, football (34)

Tuesday: Hollie Schurr, volleyball (30)

Wednesday: Juan Causey, wrestling (51)

Thursday: Tim Dobry, baseball (38)

Friday: John Mackovic, football coach (67)

Saturday: Margaret Dann, gymnastics (28)

NEXT SUNDAY: Ron Guenther

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore and assistant athletic director at Miami (Ohio)

Sections (3):Illini Sports, Sports, Other


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illinibadger wrote on September 26, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Too bad there isn't a trophy for the Illinois-Purdue game named after "Touchdown Tony" Butkovich.