Bureau County Sports

Illini coach Bret Bielema makes stop at Princeton

Steve Danielson (left) of Wyanet met University of Illinois football coach Bret Bielema, who stopped in at the Princeton Culver's on a trip back to Champaign from his hometown Prophetstown Sunday.

You never know who you might see when you stop in for lunch at the Princeton Culver’s.

Steve and Julie Danielson sat down for lunch with a couple from church when Julie thought she noticed a familiar face walk inside. As the man left and walked just outside in the parking lot, Julie nudged Steve to ask if he knew who it was.

Steve quickly recognized it was University of Illinois football coach Bret Bielema and went out to say hello. He told Steve he had been visiting his parents, Arnie and Marilyn, for their 61st anniversary in his hometown of Prophetstown and was on the way back to Champaign.

The coach’s wife, Jen, snapped their picture.

It seems that I just missed Bielema at Culver’s by a matter of a few minutes.

Bielema, 52, grew up on a hog farm outside of Prophetstown. He walked on to the University of Iowa football team as a defensive lineman playing for coach Hayden Fry’s Hawkeyes from 1989-92. He was head coach at Wisconsin from 2006-12 and Arkansas from 2013-17. He came to Illinois in 2021 after a stint with the New England Patriots.

He is the second Illinois head football coach to stop in Princeton, joining Lou Tepper (1991-96).

With our perch off of I-80, we’ve had a string of celebrities over the years stop off in our fair city. The ones that I remember over the years include Brooke Shields, John Madden, big league pitcher Jack Morris, and Scottie Pippen.

We’ve also had numerous Chicago Bears over the years appearing with their old Good News Bears basketball team and celebrity golf events as well as the White Sox caravan, Harlem Globetrotter Marquis Haynes and Eddie Feigner of the King and His Court softball team. Illini basketball coach Lou Henson stopped through Ohio to recruit Bulldog all-stater Brian Piper.

I’m sure there have been others, who have slipped in unnoticed.

A nice ring to it: This year’s Walnut 5K for ALS had a real nice ring to it.

Co-director Hillary Monier became engaged when her boyfriend, Rhys Childs, popped the question during the event.

Brad Monier says that Rhys, who is a fellow Augie grad, gets “big brother” approval.

Hillary Monier came to Saturday's Walnut 5K for ALS as race co-director and left with a ring on her finger. Her boyfriend, Rhys Childs, propose to Monier during the event.

The event was equally a big success, raising more than $24,000, Brad said, with some donations still trickling in. There were 439 entries with 392 present and all finishing the race. In 11 years, the event has raised more than $173,000 for ALS research.

I know Jan Monier would be most proud of her children for continuing her fight against ALS. You can always donate to the cause.

• Sports plates: I’ve been wanting to do a story on license plates that have a sports vanity twist to it. I have a special liking to them with personal plates of “Cards22.” I have a neighbor who goes by “Holn1.”

Please pass on any of your plates or know of others with a sports meaning. I’ll give you bonus points if you know the significance to my plates.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com.