We asked some of the 39 men who portrayed Chief Illiniwek: What was your funniest, most forgettable experience while wearing the beaded buckskin?
Here’s Logan Ponce, who followed the last Chief officially recognized by the UI, Dan Maloney, in 2008:
“Dancing inside Huff Hall had its unique challenges, mostly because it’s so much smaller an area to cover. Oh, and there’s a net in the middle. Before my first public performance, I had worn the regalia and danced only once, in front of the newly initiated Marching Illini.
“So as I waited underneath Huff, the pep band began the 'Three in One.' When the brass hit a certain note, I proceeded to come out, low to the ground, as the music built up for my entrance. The outfit is heavy, the headdress pulling my head side to side with each step, but the adrenaline was pumping, and my focus was only on the music.
“At the band crescendo, I burst onto the court — low sidestep, turn, head up — and immediately ... whoosh. The headdress slipped right over my eyes as I continued my first public Chief dance unable to see anything except my own feet and the lines on the court.
“My entire performance consisted of trying not to faceplant into the referee stand or kick an innocent young Illini fan in the face.”