CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Former Illini standout defensive back Terry Hawthorne has been named director of high school personnel and Illini relations, head coach Bret Bielema announced on Friday. Hawthorne was a two-time All-Big Ten honorable mention selection at Illinois before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, then becoming the defensive backs coach at his alma mater East St. Louis High School.
Hawthorne will have an essential role in cultivating relationships with the Illini’s high school recruits and high school coaches. He will evaluate high school student-athletes and assist in the transition of student-athletes from high school to college. Hawthorne will also work alongside the Illinois Athletics Varsity “I” Association and fellow Illini football alum Kevin Mitchell to provide alumni outreach for the Fighting Illini football program.
“I am very grateful and excited to be back at Illinois,” Hawthorne said in a statement. “It is an amazing opportunity to join Coach Bielema and his staff. Ready to get going!”
“There is no greater example of what a student-athlete can accomplish here at the University of Illinois than Terry Hawthorne,” Bielema said in a statement. “He will be able to use his past experiences as an Illinois football student-athlete, current experiences as a high school football coach, and knowledge he has gained in life to help recruit and develop relationships from coast-to-coast for our recruiting department. We couldn’t be more excited to bring him in and help us continue to grow the University of Illinois football family.”
Hawthorne played in 44 games with 26 starts during his Fighting Illini career from 2009-12, totaling 163 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 1.0 sack, six interceptions (two pick-six TDs), and 28 pass breakups. He helped Illinois to back-to-back bowl victories in the 2010 Texas Bowl and 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, including a Defensive MVP performance at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Hawthorne was an integral part of the 2011 Illini defense that ranked seventh nationally in total defense (286.2 ypg) and third nationally in pass defense (162.3 ypg). The Steelers selected Hawthorne with the 150th overall pick (5th round) in 2013 and he also played professionally in the Canadian Football League.
Following his playing career, Hawthorne returned to East St. Louis in 2014, where he had won a state title as a player, and helped the Flyers to two IHSA state titles as a coach. He has helped more than 10 East St. Louis football student-athletes to Division I scholarships, including five players that were ranked in the top 40 of Illinois in the class of 2020.