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Matt Gawne

Matt Gawne

Chief Illiniwek 22 | Procter & Gamble | Class of 1980

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 Chief No. 22, Matt Gawne, now a U.S. export manager for global development markets at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati:

“In 1979, Illinois was on the cover of Sports Illustrated: ‘Big Doings in the Big Ten.’ The campus was abuzz.

“I was living at Beta Theta Pi, and the house phone rang. I heard a brother yelling for me to answer it. After I ran down several flights of stairs, the conversation went like this:

Caller: "Hello, Matt, this is Mr. Star of the Chicago Tribune."

Gawne: "Ha ha, Joe. What’s going on, you (bleep)?"

Caller: "Excuse me?"

Gawne: "Joe, Joe. Nice try. What’s happening, you (bleep) dog?"

Caller: "Let me start again. This is Mr. Star of the Chicago Tribune."

"Me after a pregnant pause, realizing this was not a former grade school buddy I grew up with, who was a serial practical joker: ‘I beg your pardon, I thought you were a someone I grew up with ...’

“Mr. Star was calling to speak to me, as Chief Illiniwek, for a front-page article for the Tribune. He wanted some insight about the mood on campus as the Illinois basketball team was 15-0. I’m just glad the reporter omitted the superlatives I used in the front part of our conversation.”