The Illinois State football team will officially commence its 125th season when the ball kicks off on Saturday, September 4, against the Butler Bulldogs at Hancock Stadium.

The Redbirds played their first game in 1887, as captain Henry Williams guided the team to a 12-4 victory over Illinois Wesleyan in its inaugural contest. Illinois State’s most recent game came during last spring’s shortened season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, where the Redbirds topped Western Illinois 26-18 on March 20.

There have been countless memories, milestones, and moments between those two contests spanning 134 years—including a trip to the NCAA Division I FCS national championship game in 2014.

Here’s a glimpse of just some of the history by the numbers Illinois State football has produced in 125 seasons on the gridiron. 

Minus-12—Yards the Redbirds defense allowed in an 80-0 win over Eureka on November 13, 1937. It remains the only time in program history Illinois State held an opponent to negative yardage for a game.

2—Super Bowl Champions. Dennis Nelson ’70 was an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Colts’ Super Bowl V championship team in 1971. Defensive back Mike Prior ’85 won Super Bowl XXXI with the Green Bay Packers in 1996.

3—Number of times Colton Underwood ’17, who would go on to star in The Bachelor, sacked current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo during a wild 54-51 Redbirds win over Eastern Illinois on September 15, 2012.

Colton Underwood

12—Number of points Illinois State scored in a 12-7 win over Millikin on September 21, 1963, the first game ever played at Hancock Stadium.

16—Players head coach H.H. Russell had on his roster for the 1920-1921 season. Half of the team members had never played football.

18—Former Redbirds who have played in the National Football League.

25—First-Team All-Americans.

33—Yards the kick from Sean Slattery ’17 sailed through (actually, off and in) the uprights for a game-winning field goal to beat Northwestern 9-7 on September 10, 2016. That marked the first time the Redbirds beat a Big Ten opponent.

36—Redbird victories, as opposed to just nine losses, at Hancock Stadium since its 2013 renovation.

Hancock Stadium

42—Team record for points scored in a single half, accomplished September 13, 2003, against Truman State and November 12, 2005, against Indiana State.

56—Points scored against Colgate on November 27, 1999. The 56-13 win over the Raiders at Hancock Stadium was the program’s first-ever NCAA Division I FCS playoff victory.

57—Victories against rival Eastern Illinois, the most over any opponent the program has ever faced. Western Illinois is next, as the Redbirds have beaten the Leathernecks 49 times counting last spring’s win.

Game played in October 1964

63—Ties in team history, with the last coming in the pre-overtime era on November 12, 1994, a 27-27 draw against Middle Tennessee State. 

85—Wins by head coach Brock Spack entering the season, which will be his 13th at the helm. He needs one victory to tie Edwin Struck, who coached for 20 seasons from 1945 until 1964, for most in program history.

98—Yards on interception returns from Edroy Yancey ‘86, done twice in his career. One came against Marshall on September 10, 1982, while the other was against Moorhead State on November 6, 1983. Both plays resulted in touchdowns.  

457—School record amount of passing yards quarterback Kevin Glenn threw for against Northern Iowa on October 10, 1998.

580—Tackles former Kansas City Chief Boomer Grigsby ‘07 had during the course of his Redbirds career from 2001-2004.

Boomer Grigsby

1,414—All-purpose yards former ISU All-American James Robinson racked up for the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2020 season. No undrafted rookie in NFL history has had more.

21,500—People who attended the game against Indiana State on October 31, 1970, marking the largest home crowd in program history. 

62,347—Spectators at the Illinois State/Illinois game in Champaign on September 12, 2009. It is the biggest road crowd the Redbirds have ever faced.

Be part of the celebration during this anniversary season by purchasing tickets for the season or a single game at or by calling (309) 438-8000.