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Sherry and Mike Hebert

He put Illinois volleyball on the map, leading the program to two Final Fours and four Big Ten championships. Today, 74-year-old Mike Hebert cheers the Illini on from his home in San Diego, where he is surrounded by family in his battle with Parkinson's disease. Unable to make the trip back to campus for this weekend's Sweet 16, Hebert put his message to Chris Tamas' team on paper for News-Gazette Media to share:

Dear 2018 Fighting Illini Volleyball Team,

I retired from coaching volleyball eight years ago.

I have followed your accomplishments throughout those years. One thing has remained constant: the pride that radiates in and around each of you, the entire team and the coaching staff.

When the first whistle blows to initiate play this weekend at Huff Hall, be sure to take that pride with you as you step onto the court. That pride serves as a source of passion and inspiration.

I first discovered the meaning of Fighting Illini Loyalty as I watched my teams compete from 1983-1995.

Even when we were behind, I could count on the team to gain traction and come from behind to win. They pieced together a style of play that bound each player with the other. This coming together is what is known as Illini Loyalty. It is a feeling, an emotion — and you all have it without doubt.

I embrace so many positive memories of my time at Illinois. I watched my young teams fight their way from the bottom of the Big Ten Conference to the top. We found that we could win under any circumstance because we embraced Illini Loyalty.

So players, if you're in that huddle and you need a boost, remember the history and spirit of Fighting Illini Loyalty. We are all with you!


With all my love and loyalty,

Mike Hebert

Don Hardin, Jim Turpin and Mike Hebert at Huff Hall

Vice President of News

Jim Rossow is vice president of news at The News-Gazette. His email is