2020 Athletics Hall of Famers
Fifteen new members have been inducted into the University of Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame, representing nine sports. They are: Jake Stahl of baseball; Tal Brody and Derek Harper of men’s basketball; Jenna Smith of women’s basketball; Art Schankin of fencing; Moe Gardner, Kevin Hardy and Ray Nitschke of football; Don Tonry of gymnastics; Vanessa DiBernardo of soccer; Leo Johnson, Bob Richards and Gia Lewis Smallwood of track & field; Adam Tirapelle of wrestling; and Michelle Bartsch Hackey of volleyball.
Jenna Smith, Basketball, 2007-10
Jenna Smith stands as the Fighting Illini basketball program’s all-time leader in a dazzling breadth of records: scoring (2,160 points), rebounds (1,217), blocked shots (231), double-doubles (53), field-goal attempts (1,639), games started (121) and minutes played (4,561). She was a three-time First-Team All-Big Ten honoree in 2008, 2009 and 2010, while also earning Associated Press Honorable-Mention All-American recognition in 2008. During her Illini career, Smith averaged 18.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, and was a three-time team MVP selection. She was drafted in the second round as the 14th overall choice in the 2010 WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics and later spent time with the Indiana Fever. Smith continues to play professionally around the world, most recently in southwestern France.
Adam Tirapelle, Wrestling, 1998-2001
One of the best wrestlers to step into Hull Hall, Adam Tirapelle took the individual 2001 NCAA Wrestling Championship title at 149 pounds, helping Illinois to finish fifth. It was the Illini’s best national placing since a third-place finish in 1948. Tirapelle qualified for the NCAA Championships all four years he competed for Illinois, finishing second in 2000 and third in 1999 before achieving his 2001 title. He also earned All-America honors three times and was the 2000 Big Ten Champion at 149 pounds. He was the 2001 Illinois Dike Eddleman Male Athlete of the Year. Tirapelle set a school record in 1999-2000 with 15 pins, and ranks second on the Illinois single-season wins list with 39. He is second in Fighting Illini career wins with 127, third in career pins with 33 and sixth in all-time win percentage (.858). Considered a natural team leader, he was a three-time Illini team captain and twice was voted Most Valuable Wrestler. He resides in Clovis, Calif.
Leo Johnson, Coach, Track & Field, 1938-65; Assistant Coach, Football, 1937, 1942-56
Although he briefly played football in 1920 for George Halas’s Decatur Staleys, Leo Johnson was best-known for his 28 years as the head track and field coach at Illinois. His teams won three NCAA championships—in 1944, 1946 and 1947—and 17 Big Ten championships in 10 outdoor and seven indoor events. Altogether, Johnson’s athletes captured 27 individual NCAA titles and 158 conference firsts. His teams also finished as runners-up at the 1953 and 1954 NCAA meets. In addition, Johnson served as the head coach for the U.S. Pan American track team in 1955. He eventually returned to football, working on the Fighting Illini staff for 16 seasons, including scouting for Head Coaches Bob Zuppke and Ray Eliot. Johnson is a member of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He died in 1982.
Vanessa DiBernardo, Soccer, 2010-13
As one of Illinois’ most heralded soccer players,
Vanessa DiBernardo launched her Fighting Illini career as the 2010 Big Ten Freshman of the Year after leading the conference in goals and points. She went on to earn Second-Team All-America recognition in 2011 and Third-Team All-America accolades in 2012, along with First-Team All-Great Lakes Region honors three years in a row. DiBernardo also was a three-time First-Team All-Big Ten pick and was recognized as the 2011 Big Ten Midfielder of the Year. Named to the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy Watch List three times, DiBernardo received the 2013 Big Ten Medal of Honor for Illinois. She was drafted No. 4 overall in the 2014 National Women’s Soccer League College Draft by the Chicago Red Stars, the highest drafted soccer player in school history. DiBernardo finished as the Fighting Illini’s career assists leader with 22, and ranks third in career points, with 108, and fourth in goals, with 43. During that time, she also helped take the U.S. to the 2012 Fédération Internationale de Football Association Under-20 Women’s World Cup championship. DiBernardo lives in Chicago where she continues to play for the Red Stars.
Ray Nitschke, Football, 1955-57
A linebacker on defense and a fullback on offense, Ray Nitschke was a double-threat star for the Fighting Illini, leading the 1957 squad in rushing with 514 yards. That same year, he was named Second-Team All-Big Ten. After his 1958 graduation from Illinois, he went on to a 15-year NFL career with the Green Bay Packers. Nitschke anchored the Packers defense for famed Coach Vince Lombardi, and helped the team win five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls, in 1966 and 1967. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978, and the Packers retired his jersey, No. 66, in 1983. Nitschke was recognized as the NFL’s top linebacker on the League’s 50th-anniversary All-Time Team in 1969, and was chosen for the All-Time Team in honor of the NFL’s 75th anniversary in 1994, the only linebacker to make both teams. In addition, he was named to the Illinois All-Century Team in 1990. Nitschke died in 1998 at the age of 61.
Don Tonry, Gymnastics, 1956-57, 1959
Of his many achievements, Don Tonry is best known for competing in eight events on the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team, and being a fixture of the Yale gymnastics program, where he served as the coach for 43 years. At Illinois, Tonry was the NCAA champion in all-around gymnastics in 1956 and the floor-exercise champion in 1959. He achieved that same recognition at the same time in the Big Ten, winning for all-around gymnastics in 1956 and for floor exercise in 1959. Tonry was a nine-time All-American, recognized in parallel bars, all-around and the high bar in 1956, and honored in six events in 1959—all-around, floor exercise, side horse, high bar, parallel bars and still rings. He garnered a total of five Amateur Athletic Union titles, winning for vault in 1958 and 1959, followed by titles in all-around, parallel bars and floor exercise in 1962. Tonry competed for the U.S. in three World Championships, in 1958, 1962 and 1966, and brought home team gold in the Pan American Games in 1959 and 1963. He also won four individual bronze medals in the Pan American Games in 1959 (horizontal bar, parallel bars, floor exercise and all-around). In the 1963 Pan American Games, he won the gold medal on the parallel bars, the silver medal in all-around and two bronze medals, in floor exercise and vault. He began his coaching career at West Point in 1959, then moved on to coach Yale gymnastics in 1962. He was inducted into the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1980. Tonry died in 2013 at the age of 77.
Derek Harper, Basketball, 1980-83
Coming to Illinois as a high-school All-American guard, Derek Harper planned to make an impression. He did exactly that his freshman year, averaging 8.3 points and 5.4 assists on the 1980-81 team that brought the Fighting Illini back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years. After an outstanding junior season, when he earned Second-Team All-America and First-Team All-Big Ten honors, Harper declared himself eligible for professional basketball. He was the No. 11 overall pick in the 1983 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks, who retired his No. 12 jersey in 2018. During his 16-year NBA career as a point guard, Harper also played with the New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers. He played a total of 1,199 NBA games, scoring 16,006 points and averaging 5.5 assists per game, and he was named to the U of I All-Century Team in 2005. Harper resides in Dallas.
Art Schankin, Fencing, 1956-58; Coach, Fencing, 1973-93
Regarded as the greatest fencer in Fighting Illini history, Art Schankin was a three-time All-American, including an unprecedented sweep to the NCAA sabre title in 1958, when he became the first intercollegiate fencer to win the national championship with an undefeated 21 bouts. Along the way, he took a second-place finish in the sabre as a sophomore and finished third in foil as a junior, after tying for fifth nationally. As the Illini’s head fencing coach, Schankin’s teams amassed a 391-51 record, including seven Big Ten championships and 10 Top 20 NCAA finishes. Schankin died in 2014 at the age of 87.
Garland “Jake” Stahl, Baseball/Football, 1899-1903
A legendary dual-sport star for Illinois, Garland “Jake” Stahl earned All-America honors as a tackle on the football team in 1901 and established himself as a star catcher during the 1901-03 baseball seasons. On the gridiron, Stahl helped lead Illinois to 25 victories between 1899 and 1902, playing under coaches George Huff, Fred Smith and Edgar Holt. But it was baseball that held Stahl’s professional future. Illinois won the 1903 Big Ten baseball title with a 17-1 overall record and an 11-1 conference record, and Stahl established his legacy on the diamond with a batting average of .443 in 1901 and .444 in 1903, which stood as the school record for 23 seasons. His bases-loaded home run hit against Michigan in 1903, which rocketed off a tree in deep center field, remains one of Illini baseball’s most legendary plays. For decades, the tree was known as “the Jake Stahl home-run tree.” As only the second Illini to play in the major leagues, he enjoyed a winning nine-year career, highlighted by two World Series championships with the Boston Red Sox. Although he was on the 1903 championship team, he did not play in the World Series, but in 1912, he helped the Red Sox win the Series as a player and as the team’s manager. In 1910, he led the American League with 10 home runs and ranked fourth in RBI and triples, the latter with 16. Stahl died in 1922 at the age of 43.
Bob Richards, Track & Field, 1945-47
Bob Richards is the greatest pole vaulter in the University’s history and the only pole vaulter in Olympics history to win two gold medals. He won the bronze medal in pole vaulting for the U.S. in the 1948 Olympic Games, then won gold medals in the event in 1952 and 1956. He also competed as a decathlete in the 1956 Olympics. In 1951, he received the Amateur Athletic Union’s (AAU) James E. Sullivan Memorial Award as the amateur athlete of the year. During his Fighting Illini career, he won the 1947 national NCAA championship in a seven-way tie and garnered 20 AAU titles—17 in the pole vault and three in the decathlon. The dominant pole vaulter of his time, Richards was ranked No. 1 worldwide for eight consecutive years. His awards and accolades brought him commercial fame as well: He was the first athlete to appear on a Wheaties cereal box, in 1958. Richards was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975 and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983. In 2000, he was awarded the Order of Lincoln, the state of Illinois’ highest honor. Richards now raises miniature horses on his ranch in Gordon, Texas.
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, Volleyball, 2008-11
One of the most well-rounded stars in Fighting Illini volleyball history, Michelle Bartsch-Hackley helped take her team to the NCAA Sweet 16 all four years she played for Illinois, culminating in a 2011 runner-up finish. She earned American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Third-Team All-America honors in 2010 and 2011, after an Honorable Mention spot in 2009. Bartsch-Hackley started strong her first year at Illinois, with recognition as the 2008 AVCA Mideast Region Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and was a unanimous choice for the Big Ten All-Freshman team. As a sophomore, she also was recognized as an Honorable-Mention All-Big Ten. She was named First-Team All-Mideast Region in 2010 and All-Big Ten in 2010 and 2011. In addition, she was selected to Volleyball Magazine’s All-America First Team in 2011. Bartsch-Hackley has been a Team USA member since 2016 and currently plays professionally in Istanbul.
Morris “Moe” Gardner, Football, 1987-90
Arguably the best defensive tackle in Fighting Illini history, Morris “Moe” Gardner finished his U of I career as the school record holder with 57 tackles for a loss. He was a two-time First-Team All-America defensive star, helping Illinois to three consecutive bowl games, as well as a Big Ten co-championship in 1990. Gardner earned All-Big Ten honors all four seasons he played for Illinois, including First-Team All-Big Ten recognition his final three years. He was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 1989 and 1990, and the 1989 Big Ten Lineman of the Year. In addition, Gardner was a finalist for the 1989 Outland Trophy and the 1990 Rotary Lombardi Award. Also in 1990, he was named to the Illinois All-Century Team. Gardner played six seasons for the Atlanta Falcons from 1991-96 and lives in Duluth, Ga.
Gia Lewis-Smallwood, Track & Field, 2000-02
Gia Lewis-Smallwood is the most accomplished field-event athlete in Fighting Illini women’s track and field history. She holds school records for the 20-pound weight throw and the discus, and was the 2001 Big Ten discus champion, earning First-Team All-America status and a fifth-place finish that year at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Lewis-Smallwood competed in the discus at the 2012 Summer Olympics and holds a U.S. record in that event with a toss of 226 feet, 11 inches, achieved in 2014. She is a four-time U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Champion, winning three straight discus titles from 2013-15, after finishing second in 2010 and third in 2011. After finishing fifth in discus at the 2013 World Championships, Lewis-Smallwood won a discus gold medal at the 2014 International Association of Athletics Federations Continental Cup and a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American games. She lives near Alexis, Ill.
Kevin Hardy, Football, 1992-95
Kevin Hardy might be best remembered for teaming up with fellow Illinois Athletics HOF members Dana Howard and Simeon Rice, along with John Holecek, in 1994 to form one of college football’s greatest linebacker lineups. A three-time All-Big Ten linebacker, Hardy was named consensus First-Team All-American, and received the 1995 Butkus Award during his senior year. He finished his Illini career ranked fourth all-time on the Illinois sacks list with 18, fourth in tackles for a loss with 38 and ninth in tackles with 330. Hardy was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he played for five seasons. He also played with the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals. He resides in Jacksonville, Fla.
Tal Brody, Basketball, 1963-65
Tal Brody earned international acclaim as Israel’s Ambassador of Goodwill, nicknamed “Mr. Basketball” by its citizens for raising the game’s profile in Israel and using it to enrich international relations. Although he was the No. 12 overall pick in the 1965 NBA Draft by the Baltimore Bullets, he chose to play professionally for Maccabi-Tel Aviv, eventually taking the team to Israel’s first European Cup championship in 1977. During his Illini career, Brody scored 1,121 points and ranks among the top 50 scorers in Fighting Illini history. He was named First-Team All-America and First-Team All-Big Ten in 1965, after earning Second-Team All-Big Ten honors in 1964. He also was a Second-Team Academic All-American in 1965. In 1967, Brody was named Israel’s “Sportsman of the Year,” and in 1979, he was awarded the Israel Prize, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in recognition of his contributions to Israeli society and the State in the field of sports. In 1996, Brody was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2011 he was inducted into the U.S. National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Brody lives in Tel-Aviv, Israel.