April 12, 2009

Brees, others inducted into Purdue Hall

INDIANAPOLIS - Drew Brees' travel plans took a detour, but missing the 2009 Purdue Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was not an option.

Brees, his wife, newborn son, sister and mother-in-law were scheduled to catch a flight from Atlanta to Indianapolis Friday. After a several delays, the flight was canceled at 9 p.m. With no other flights scheduled to Indianapolis until Sunday, the group rented a car and began to make the long ride, stopping to spend the night in Nashville, Tenn.

"We weren't going to miss this," Brees told the audience gathered Saturday inside of the NCAA Hall of Champions.

The two-time Heisman finalist was one of 10 inductees to this year's class. Women sports pioneer Jo-Ann Price and football player Boris "Babe" Dimancheff were inducted posthumously. Football player Dave Young was not able to attend due to the death of a friend and women's basketball honoree Katie Douglass was still in Russia with her professional team still alive in the playoffs.

Denny Blind (men's basketball), Jamie McNeair-Reese (track and field), Dave and Joe Lilovich (wrestling), Erich Barnes (football) and Brees were present for the ceremony.

Dimancheff was remembered for his love of football, by his niece, Demetrica Harvey.

"He was very personable, but anytime he had a conversation with you, he talked about football," Harvey said. "No matter what you started off with it would end on football."

Considered the first Heisman candidate in Purdue history, Dimancheff was an All-American in 1944.

"They called him the 'Babe of Football' because he was so good at it," Harvey said, referring to baseball legend Babe Ruth. "This honor would have meant the world to him."
Price was honored for her support of female athletics and coached women's basketball and golf teams on the recreational and club levels from 1955-65.

"I think she would most want to be remembered as a physical educator," said Sally Combs-Elliott, who represented Price. "She believed in the body, mind and spirit being intertwined and that you had to have all of this to be a fit person."

All inductees brought large family and friend contingents, but Barnes may have the most boisterous cheer section.
Barnes kept the crowd laughing with many humorous stories. He recalled his 102-yard interception return for a touchdown for the New York Giants in a game against Dallas.

"In Dallas they're still upset about that play," Barnes said. "They need to get over it, that was over 50 years ago. I still get calls from people down there."

Joe and Dave Lilovich each received their own induction plaque, with each having both of their faces and accomplishments listed.

"This is a unique honor and something you don't expect, but wonderful when the culmination comes," Dave Lilovich said. "To be going in with my little brother Joe is unique and unforgettable."

Joe took time to recall some of his greatest athletic accomplishments.

"Obviously winning the Big Ten title was big," Joe Lilovich said. "But on a personal level it was when I could finally take my sister. She still calls herself the son my dad never had."

McNeair-Reese dreamed big with goals set out for her athletic career, some of which were born by her time on Purdue's campus.

"I can remember walking through the halls of Mackey Arena and seeing all of the pictures of all of the inductees," McNeair-Reese. "It was always an inspiration for me and I always wondered if I would get the opportunity to do it. This induction says that my past athletic accomplishments are worthy of being immortalized to a degree. I'm pleased and thankful for that."

Young, who couldn't make the trip, was the first tight end to lead the nation in receptions, averaging 6.1 per game in 1980.

"He was a very impressive target," said former teammate and quarterback Mark Herrmann. "He had the ability to get away from people. In a time in the Big Ten when throwing to the tight end was not a big deal, he was sort of a pioneer with all of his abilities.

"He's a tremendous talent. Dave was a big part of our success."

Brees became the youngest member ever inducted into the Hall of Fame.

"It's an unbelievable honor," Brees said. "I think Erich said it best, 'You never expect it, you just play the game and when the honors come you just shake your head and then you take time to reflect.

"I would not be in the situation I am now if not for the opportunity Purdue gave me."

Blind was the first player in school history to score 1,000 points and was a two-time Small All-American, an honor going to players standing under 6-feet tall.

This is a great honor and I feel very honored," Blind said. "I feel very humbled when I hear the accomplishments of the other inductees in this class and the athletes that have gone before.

"I'm very gratified to be honored by Purdue University."

Look for more on the Lilovichs, Blind, McNeair-Reese and Brees on GoldandBlack.com in the upcoming days.

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