Former Illini football center and Illinois Chapter of Uplifting Athletes President Joe Spencer recently won the 2017 Coach Wooden Citizen Cup Award given to the most outstanding role model among athletes.
Athletes for a Better World announced Spencer as its winner from among the four finalists Tuesday evening in Atlanta.
The award, named after famed UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden, is given to one college, professional and high school athlete (or athletic figure) per year for character and leadership both on and off the field and for contributions to sport and society. Athletes for a Better World presented the Wooden Cup for the 13th year.
Recipients of the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup are determined by the Wooden Cup Selection Committee after reviewing voting by the Board of Directors and over 100 distinguished individuals involved in athletics across the country.
Spencer’s work in the community and the classroom has been incredible during his four years in Champaign. The 2016 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honorees’ long list of community involvement includes serving as president of Illinois’ Uplifting Athletes Chapter, president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, raising nearly $40,000 for charity in two years by organizing the Illinois Chapter Lift for Life, helping organize Illinois’ student-athlete variety show that has raised over $80,000 in the last five years, being a “Big” at the local Big Brothers Big Sisters, spearheading the Leadership Summit for local middle school students, volunteering at the Special Olympics, and visiting nearly every elementary school in Champaign-Urbana.
Spencer was a team captain for the 2016 Illini football team and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention honors by the media. He started 37 games during his Illinois career, including 11 this season. Spencer is enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Illinois after earning a bachelor’s degree in finance in May 2016.