August 30, 2005

Drive under way to help former football star

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A member of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's extended alumni family needs assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

University officials today (Friday, Sept. 30) announced a fund-raising drive to assist former Saluki football standout Lionel Antoine, whose family is in desperate and immediate need of assistance.

The Biloxi, Miss., native, a member of the SIUC Hall of Fame, starred for the Salukis from 1968 to 1972. He has been living in a tent since Katrina destroyed his home. In an interview with NBC News earlier this month, Antoine also said he was waiting on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide funds it will pay toward storm-related funerals to bury an aunt.

Officials are asking fans coming to Saturday's 1:30 p.m. Homecoming game with Missouri State University (formerly Southwest Missouri State) to bring $1 or more for a collection fund for Antoine and his family. Members of SIUC's Black Affairs Council will distribute canisters during the second quarter of the game. Checks should be made payable to SIUC.

"Our thoughts and hearts this Homecoming weekend are with Lionel and his family," said Susan L. Davis, executive director of SIUC's Media & Communication Resources, and chair of a committee that is coordinating the University's multi-faceted efforts to assist hurricane survivors. "This is an immediate need with Southern roots that the committee moved to address quickly. We hope everyone who comes to the game tomorrow will join with us and bring a dollar or more for the drive, because together we can make a real difference."

Harold R. Bardo, an associate professor in the SIU School of Medicine's MEDPREP program, has spoken with Antoine and brought the idea to the committee.

"I would hate to be homeless," he said. "I would hate living in a tent, not knowing where my next meal is coming from. I know there are a lot of people who have been affected by Katrina and Rita, but this is someone I know who has been affected. Hopefully the University will rally around everyone, and Lionel, in particular."

Antoine played three positions – tight end, defensive end and offensive tackle – during his playing career at SIUC. He caught 53 passes for 730 yards and four touchdowns in his career as a Saluki. The towering 255-pound Antoine is one of the school's most honored college football players, earning first-team Kodak All-American Honors at tight end in 1970, and first-team American Football Coaches Association All-American honors in 1970 and 1971.

Antoine remains the school's highest first-round NFL draft pick when the Chicago Bears chose him as the third overall selection in 1972. He played for the Bears from 1972 to 1978 before injuries cut short his career.

Building relationships among the University and its students and graduates is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.