COLUMN: Other football alumni should take after Jimmy G’s example

Rob Le Cates

Autumn Schulz is a junior sports media relations major and can be reached at 581-2912 or [email protected].

Autumn Schulz, Sports Editor

I never thought I would see the day that Jimmy Garoppolo would return to Eastern but much to my surprise, it is happening.

Of course, I have made jokes about Jimmy G coming back to visit and how that would put both Chucktown and the Eastern football program on the map. I always said that if he visited, Chucktown would burst into flames.

I guess we will have to see if my theory comes true.

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy G will be returning to Chucktown on Saturday, April 22 at 6 p.m. for a special fundraising event hosted by the Eastern Athletic Department.

According to the press release by the athletics department, the event will take place in Lantz Arena and 250 guests will be allowed to attend the event. The cost to attend for one individual is $200 and $350 dollars for a couple.

I think this is a very smart move by the athletics department and I think all parties involved will benefit from the evening with Jimmy G. Jimmy, I am sure, will be excited to be back at the school that put him in the NFL and to see past teammates and coaches.

Panther football fans, friends, family members, boosters, and past and current team members will be absolutely stoked to see one of the EIU football greats return. I think it is always great to see alumni give back to the school in which they got their start from.

Other Eastern football greats and alumni need to follow Jimmy G’s example.

There needs to be more comradery between professional athletes and the schools that they went to, especially smaller schools like Eastern. If there is any chance to give back, I think that opportunity needs to be seized.

I truly believe that head coach Chris Wilkerson is bringing Panther football back to Charleston because he absolutely bleeds blue and he deserves support from all sides, no matter if someone is in the NFL or not.

I am sure the Panther football program would enjoy a new locker room, an improved weight room, a better field to play on, and anything else that is needed to improve the program. No, I am not saying that these improvements just fall on the backs of alumni that have made it to the NFL.

There needs to be an effort, on all sides, to help improve the program. The players and coaches will take care of what needs to be done on the field but outside of O’Brien Field, the effort may need to come from a different area.

And Eastern has quite the NFL presence that could easily help.

Tony Romo, Sean Payton, and Mike Shanahan are all familiar faces that people think of when they think about Eastern. They have all had very successful careers in the NFL and I only hope that seeing Jimmy G come back will inspire them to give back more.

Mike Shanahan has been an active alumnus as he visited the Panther football team over the summer and he donated two tickets to Super Bowl LVII, lodging and $1,000 to the winners of the raffle.

In a 2020 businessinsider article, it called Eastern “the little-known FCS program” that “has produced some of the greatest minds and arms of the professional football past and present.”

I think the “little-known” part of Eastern seems to be a reoccurring theme. I have had classes with athletes where the professor asks them if they knew what Eastern Illinois University was before being recruited here to play and a lot of them say no.

There will be talk about Eastern a little bit here and there on sports broadcasts, especially with Tony behind the microphone.

Jimmy G put Eastern back in the headlines after he was seen with an Eastern Illinois football backpack during the 2020 NFL season. However, it is still not enough.

Eastern has produced quite a number of notable alumni that have come out of the Panther football program and that alone should open the door for more publicity.

I am hoping that the reason why people do not talk about the Panther football program in the way that it deserves is not because people are searching for the next Jimmy G, because that is not fair.

If people want the football program to be as great as it once was, then make the effort to help improve it.

A little contribution goes a long way and there needs to be more of them.