College Football Reporter/Columnist

Bob Asmussen is a college football reporter and columnist for The News-Gazette. His email is asmussen@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@BobAsmussen).

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Moe must go ... into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Moe Gardner, a dominating Illinois defensive defensive lineman from 1987-1990, is part of the 18-player, three-coach class announced Monday afternoon on ESPN. Seventy-eight players from the Football Bowl Subdivision were on the ballot.

Gardner is one of four players from current Big Ten schools who will be part of the next class and one of two players who played college football in Illinois.

Former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington (1997-99), former Ohio State safety Mike Doss (1999-2002), former Michigan defensive tackle Mark Messner (1985-88) and former Nebraska offensive lineman Zach Wiegert (1991-94) all made the exclusive group. Nebraska was in the Big Eight when Wiegert played.

Along with Gardner, former Illinois State linebacker Boomer Grigsby (2001-04) was also part of the class that was unveiled on Monday.

Former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck (2009-11) is arguably the headliner, with former Georgia defensive back Champ Bailey (1996-98), former Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree (2007-08), former Alabama center Sylvester Croom (1972-74), former Toledo quarterback Chuck Ealey (1969-71), former LSU running back Kevin Faulk (1995-98), former Oregon State wide receiver Mike Hass (2002-05), former Florida State linebacker Marvin Jones (1990-92), former Oklahoma State running back Terry Miller (1974-77), former Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam (1992-94), former Alcorn State center Dennis Thomas (1971-73) and former Oklahoma defensive back Roy Williams (1999-2001) also landing in the Hall of Fame on Monday.

Former Missouri and Toledo coach Gary Pinkel was one of three coaches elected, along with former Memphis coach Billy Jack Murphy and former Washington & Jefferson (Pa.) and California (Pa.) coach John Luckhardt.

Gardner was a two-time consensus All-American for John Mackovic’s successful teams, terrorizing Big Ten quarterbacks, running backs and offensive linemen.

The soft-spoken Indianapolis native helped the team win 10 games in 1989 and a share of the Big Ten title in 1990.

Gardner was selected for the Illinois Athletic Hall of Fame in 2020. He becomes the first former Illini selected for the College Football Hall of Fame since linebacker Dana Howard in 2018. Before that, it had been 13 years since an Illinois player was selected (superstar receiver David Williams).

Gardner should have some Illini company in the Hall in the coming years. Simeon Rice and Kevin Hardy were again on the ballot this year and are shoo-ins for eventual selection.

Gardner remains second on Illinois’ career list of tackles for loss with 57, trailing only Rice. He is tied for fifth on the career sacks list with 18 and had 316 career tackles.

A finalist for both the Lombardi and Outland Trophies with the Illini, Gardner earned a spot on the Illinois All-Century team while still an active player.

Gardner becomes the 18th former Illini player or coach to earn a spot in the Hall, following notables Red Grange, Dick Butkus. J.C. Caroline, Jim Grabowski, Buddy Young, Al Brosky and others.

Long haulUnlike many other sports, inclusion in the College Football Hall of Fame isn’t easy.

Players aren’t eligible until 10 years after the conclusion of their college careers. To be considered, a player must have been recognized as a first-team All-American.

With a pool of candidates and limited spots available, players often spend years as a nominee before being selected.

Rice and Hardy certainly have the college credentials for inclusion. But they are waiting, like many others.

Worth a lookGardner spent his entire NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons, starting 84 games from 1991-96 after getting picked in the fourth round of the 1991 draft.

After his pro career ended, Gardner and wife Roberta stayed in the Atlanta area, where they still live. That will be convenient if they want to see his plaque at the Hall of Fame. The facility is now located in Atlanta, opening there in 2014. It had previous homes in South Bend, Ind., and Kings Mill, Ohio. The Hall didn’t draw expected crowds at the earlier two stops, but seems to have found the right fit in the college football-crazed SEC region.

I’ve been to the College Football Hall at all three places. The latest model has many more bells and whistles than the earlier attempts.

A great way to fill the day while waiting for first pick at Truist Park. And to find out about the latest Illini going in.

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-393-8248 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

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