University of Illinois

1971 - 76 Illini
(Authentic Reproduction)




The Illini hired a legend, Dartmouth coach Bob Blackman who had compiled an enviable 150-49-8 record, 104-37-3 in his sixteen years at the Ivy League school. A proven winner who had started as a student assistant at USC after first winning the freshmen team MVP and then being stricken with polio, Blackman immediately changed the uniform and dropped the first six games of his Illinois career, going scoreless in the initial three. However, as his team responded to his new demands, they roared through their final five games and compiled a 5-3 conference mark. QB Mike Wells and center Larry McCarren formed the nucleus of a promising offense. The helmet was given a very unique and attractive look using the traditional burnt orange shell and adding one-inch white rainbow type side stripes that were trimmed in blue and an arched "Illini" logo on each side of the helmet in two-inch tall letters, also in blue and trimmed in white. As Coach Blackman was preparing to improve upon his first season's record, he was struck by the news that his team was gutted by the loss of twelve players who had been ejected from school due to academic failures. With a tough non-conference schedule that included USC, Washington, and Penn State, he was lucky to survive '72 with a 3-8 record. QB Mike Wells and center Larry McCarren (who went on to play for the Packers for twelve years), again formed the heart of the offense with Wells graduating with Illini career records of 2750 yards passing and 3204 total yards. Soph RB Lonnie Perrin was the team MVP as a fleet rusher and adding a fifty-two yard field goal to his resume. When your kicker, Danny Beaver is the primary offensive weapon and the team cannot score a touchdown in three consecutive mid-season games, there will be problems. 1973's 5-6 slate was an improvement but Illinois was not scaring anyone. Beaver kicked a Big Ten tying five FG's against Purdue in a 15-13 win. Lonnie Perrin hurt his shoulder early and contributed but 398 yards for the year. The defense looked good, especially DB Mike Gow who led the nation with ten interceptions as an All Conference performer, and pushed the team total to 23 INT's and another 22 fumbles recovered. 1974 allowed the Illini to celebrate their first winning season since 1965, a 6-4-1 mark with an offense that picked up the slack of a defense that fell far short of the '73 performance. Brooklyn's Revie Sorey was a tough guard who played for the Bears, leading Walter Payton during a nine-year pro career. New QB Jeff "Beat The Clock" Hollenbach often did, pulling out a few close victories. HB Lonnie Perrin was lost for the year with torn knee ligaments as was DT Scott Studwell. John DiFeiciantonio tied for the Big Ten sack total with eleven. Expected improvement wasn't there and the team fell to 5-6 in '75, although RB Lonnie Perrin avoided injury and had a good year, good enough to take his 223 pounds to the Denver Broncos and Redskins from 1976 through '79. QB Kurt Steger did well and the defense was promising with Scott Studwell moving to LB. DT John DiFeliciantonio was the Big Ten sack leader. 1976 was a repeat 5-6 season with QB Kurt Steger throwing for 1243 yards and ten TD's, less than expected. LB Scott Studwell was All Big Ten and the defensive leader, finishing his career with a school record 177 tackles. He matriculated to the Vikings and played there from 1977 through 1990 as one of their most popular players. With disappointment and frustration, Blackman was released and the College Football Hall Of Fame coach returned to the Ivy League to coach Cornell until his retirement in 1982.

If interested in any of these UI helmets please click on the photos below.