Illini football’s 1992 freshman class

Members of the 1992 Illinois football freshman class pose for a photo before the start of the 1992 season. From left (front row), Jason Franklin, Brian McCabe, Martin Jones, Rodney Byrd, Steve Janiszewski, Doug Ameson, Will Lepsi and Don Veronesi; (middle row) Ty Douthard, William Morris, DeMontie Cross, Tom Claussen, Mark Matelski and Saydee Mends-Cole; (back row) Chris Koerwitz, Scott Weaver, Ron Cole, Jason Dulick, Simeon Rice, Jay Kuchenbecker, Paul Marshall and Chris McPartlin.

Thirty-one years ago Sunday — Feb. 5, 1992 — new Illini football coach Lou Tepper celebrated the completion of his first recruiting class, a small but quality-filled 14-man group.

Announced that day by Tepper as one of the top prospects was East St. Louis High School running back Chris Moore, who had just completed a record-breaking senior campaign for the state champion Flyers.

Moore’s shortcomings in the classroom, however, didn’t allow him to come to Champaign-Urbana and he instead attended NAIA member Culver-Stockton. Another Flyer linebacker Dennis Stallings also was signed by the Illini.

Besides Moore, two other highly acclaimed running backs who were inked by Tepper’s staff included Cincinnati LaSalle’s Ty Douthard and O’Fallon’s Rodney Byrd. Both Douthard and Byrd would go on to be four-time Illini letterwinners.

Quarterback Scott Weaver, a native of Beaver Falls, Pa., was the only signal caller signed by Tepper that day.

Supposedly, the final player to be offered a scholarship by Tepper that year was a Mount Carmel High School defensive lineman named Simeon Rice.

Rice was influenced to join the Illini because former Caravan teammates J.J. Strong, Pete Gabrione and Charles Edwards were already at Illinois. Rice rapidly moved up the depth chart and eventually became a four-time All-Big Ten performer, a two-time All-American and the third overall pick in the 1996 NFL draft.

Four of the 14 signees — Hazelwood East’s DeMontie Cross, Lyons Township’s Will Lepsi, Paducah (Ky.’s) Saydee Mends-Cole, and Chicago Vocational’s William Morris — never lettered for Illinois. Three 1992 freshman walk-ons —Glenbard South’s Tom Claussen and Chris McPartlin, and Mount Carmel’s Don Veronesi — eventually did win monograms for the Illini.

Members of the 1992 freshman class that went on to letter for Tepper included:

➜ Rodney Byrd (1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996): The fullback from O’Fallon High School became an Illini co-captain in 1996 and wound up his collegiate career by playing in 44 games. Information regarding his whereabouts today is unavailable.

➜ Tom Claussen (1996): A defensive lineman from Glenbard South, Claussen lettered in his senior season at Illinois, accumulating 17 tackles in 10 games. No information was available as to what he’s doing today.

➜ Ty Douthard (1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996): The former Cincinnati LaSalle running back concluded his Illini career with 1,851 rushing yards and 1,250 receiving yards. Today, he is an associate at World Financial Group in Greater Indianapolis and is a regular attender at Illini games.

➜ Jason Dulick (1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996): A star at St. Louis University High, Dulick racked up big yardage as a wide receiver. In four seasons, he caught 169 passes for 2,004 yards and 15 touchdowns. He wound up his collegiate career as UI’s second-leading career receiver. Dulick is now a teacher and the head football coach at Gateway STEM High School in St. Louis.

➜ Martin Jones (1994 and 1995): After encountering minor criminal charges during his time at Illinois, the former Cincinnati Aiken standout receiver left Illinois after two letter-winning seasons. Today, he is a real estate investor for MJ Investment Group in his hometown.

➜ Chris Koerwitz (1994, 1995 and 1996): The Oshkosh, Wis., native played center for Tepper, lettering three times. A middle school principal in Riverton, his son went on to play college football at SIU.

➜ Jay Kuchenbecker (1995 and 1996): A product of York High School, Kuchenbecker started all 11 games at right guard in 1996. He’s now a real estate broker for Compass in Greater Chicago.

➜ Paul Marshall (1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996): The Naperville North High School standout was a defensive line starter in his final 28 Illini games, totaling 88 tackles as a senior. Marshall now serves as director of sales for Fresenius Medical Care in Greater Phoenix.

➜ Chris McPartlin (1994): A star at Glenbard South, McPartlin lettered in his junior season as a linebacker. Today, he directs Up Campus Student Living in Greater Chicago.

➜ Simeon Rice (1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995): Rice impressed the coaching staff from his first practice, eventually establishing new Illini records in every category for tackles for loss and quarterback sacks. He went on to a 12-year NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts. He’s now on the ballot for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After football, Rice began a career in the entertainment industry, directing a feature-length film in 2015. He is a member of Illini athletics Hall of Fame.

➜ Dennis Stallings (1994, 1995 and 1996): Stallings enrolled at Illinois in 1992 but did not actually play until 1994. He was a sixth-round pick in the 1997 NFL draft and played three seasons for the Tennessee Oilers. Nowadays, Stallings works for Gastroenterology Care Specialists in Mount Julien, Tenn.

➜ Don Veronesi (1993): A teammate of Rice at Mount Carmel, he lettered as a defensive back his sophomore season. Today, he owns Veronesi Carpentry Services in Crown Point, Ind.

➜ Scott Weaver (1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996): Hailing from Joe Namath‘s hometown in Beaver Falls, Pa., Weaver was an effective quarterback for Tepper. In his four Illini seasons, he passed for 3,212 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s now territory manager at Electrostim Medical Services in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Illini BirthdaysSunday: Nicki Cast, cross country/track and field

Monday: Tracy Abrams, basketball (31)

Tuesday: Barbella Magas, basketball

Wednesday: Jameel Cook, football (44)

Thursday: David Kerian, baseball (30)

Friday: Eva Rubin, basketball

Saturday: Isabel Sy, golf

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore (Third Edition available online). Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter @IlliniLegends and @Spartifacts. His website is