As we celebrate Homecoming on October 21st when the Fighting Illini take on the Wisconsin Badgers, it is important to honor each member of our FamILLy. From the players and coaches on the field, to the Marching Illini, to the cheerleaders, to everyone wearing orange and blue at Memorial Stadium, to the Fighting Illini faithful near and far, our FamILLy is central to our success, both on and off the field. To honor various members of our family, before each football home game, we will share the stories of those who represent the values we uphold at Illinois. This week’s edition of the FamILLy Focus series spotlights the Hoffman family, which includes multiple generations of Illinois alumni and lifelong Illini fans. The Hoffmans have two sons, JP and Anthony, who are members of the Fighting Illini cheer team, which plays a huge role on Illini football game days.
The Hoffman family bleeds orange and blue. There is no doubt about that. Between parents, JR and Rose met—and eventually married—on campus, four of their six children attending Illinois, their youngest two sons currently serving as cheerleaders for the Fighting Illini, U of I is an integral part of the family’s history and identity.
“I don’t often reflect on my life. Sitting there in the stands at Memorial Stadium, the place clearing out, the cheerleaders, the football team and the band still out there celebrating their school, it makes me sit back and think about the essence of our family,” JR Hoffman said. “We met here , we got married here and 30 years later we can enjoy and celebrate in a very, very unique way.”
Graduating from Illinois in 1992, JR and Rose Hoffman were married in the Newman Center on campus later that year before moving to Rockford, where JR completed medical school. They then spent some time in Evansville, Indiana before remaining in the Hoosier state and living in Jasper for 13 years.
Even while living three hours away from Champaign-Urbana, the Hoffmans still found ways to support the Illini. The family created a game room decorated with orange walls and blue lights, and JR wore an Illinois tie to work on game days, even if he sometimes drew friendly banter from local Indiana or Purdue fans.
The Hoffmans eventually returned home in June 2012 when they returned to Champaign. One of their daughters chose to attend Indiana University, although JR and Rose regularly attended Bloomington. This included a weekend trip to watch an Illinois-Indiana football game, although they continued to show their Illini loyalty by rooting for the Orange and Blue in enemy territory.
The family’s second-oldest daughter, Honor, became the first child to follow in her parents’ footsteps and attend Illinois, eventually graduating from the College of Education in 2017. After their oldest son, Joe, initially spent his first year of college elsewhere, he chose to transfer to the U of I as a sophomore and continue the family legacy, graduating in 2022 from the College of Agricultural Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
JP Hoffman became the third Hoffman child to attend Illinois. Currently a senior in the Gies College of Business, JP joined the cheer team before his junior year despite never participating in the sport. After playing football through high school, JP decided he would give it a try.
“Freshman year, I ended up meeting the current captain of the cheer team,” JP Hoffman said. “At that point I was able to do a backflip. We became friends and he said, “Hey, you can do a backflip. You are quite athletic. You are quite strong. Maybe you should try joining the cheer team. They are always looking for more boys to join the team because it is quite rare to find male cheerleaders. I was like, “Okay, I’ll try.” I tried out, they took me on, they taught me the ropes, and I’ve been a cheerleader ever since.”
JP became the family’s first cheerleader in Illinois, but she wasn’t the last. His younger brother Anthony, who is the sixth and youngest child in the Hoffman family, chose to join the team in August. A freshman in the College of Applied Health Sciences, Anthony was excited to cheer alongside his brother, especially since he missed out on playing football together in high school.
Although the brothers will only get the chance to enjoy each other for one year, Anthony is making the most of every game and practice they spend together.
“I just found out that this is the home and every other mascot is transmitting Block I,” Anthony Hoffman said. “If JP really enjoyed a whim and was strong enough and athletic enough, I was like, ‘If I’m going to the U of I, this place that I’ve felt like home for years and years, then I could be like, well, be cheerleader If JP could do it, maybe I can too.
“I regret not being able to experience the game with JP, it was a big, big regret for a long time and then this opportunity came up. I got it and couldn’t be happier. I think it’s great that it’s with my brother and our family can experience that. It’s crazy everywhere. It’s crazy for our family. It’s crazy for us. We took it, we ran with it, and we’re good at it. It’s a great experience all around. It was a full-circle moment for which I am very grateful.”
The Hoffmans make the most of JP and Anthony’s time together, with JR and Rose attending every football game to support their sons from the sidelines. Whether it’s during the Illini Walk at Grange Grove or at Memorial Stadium on game days, Illinois cheerleading has become a family affair, an experience Rose, a proud mother, will never forget.
“My favorite sports memories are now,” Rose Hoffman said. “It just makes me cry when at the end of the game they’re standing there singing the Alma Mater, swaying back and forth. We went to school here, and now they do too. I just feel super blessed.”