Former Illinois football player Simon Cvijanovic reached a $250,000 settlement with the school this week for the coaching staff’s mismanagement of his health in 2013 and 2014. Not only could that groundbreaking agreement set a new precedent for college athletes, but Cvijanovic wants to take an active role in protecting players by starting a nonprofit organization to advocate for them.

The ex-lineman held a press conference on Thursday, and here’s what he said about continuing to advocate for athletes who find themselves in similar positions via ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg:

“This is so much bigger than me,” Cvijanvoic said Thursday during a news conference at the office of his Chicago-based attorneys. “This problem is still a problem nationwide, one that needs to be adjusted.

“I’m happy that people are paying attention to those issues on a much higher level. I hope that this story inspires others to use their voices as well. If anything, watching me do what I’ve done, other players will be able to stand up and say that they’re worthy.”

Two years ago, Cvijanovic unleashed a Twitter rant alleging Tim Beckman, the Illinois football coach from 2012 to 2015, mistreated him by forcing him to play through injuries and creating his outcast from the team and campus. Beckman and athletic director Mike Thomas were fired as the result of the ensuing investigation.

According to Cvijanovic, he had trouble getting support from his teammates when he publicly called out the coaching staff due to torn loyalties. From Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune:

“The situation I was in, I had already been slotted (as) a quitter,” Cvijanovic, 24, said on Thursday. “It was hard for (teammates) to respect my opinion. It was hard for them to respect what I was saying. A lot of players said, ‘Sorry, Simon, it’s my senior year. Sorry, Simon, I have a scholarship here. Sorry, Simon, I’m not really sure if what you’re saying is true.'”

It’s one thing for schools to refuse to pay players when they have the money. It’s worse when they physically mistreat students that are already being exploited economically. Bringing player health to the front of the discussion regarding student-athlete rights isn’t something new. It was a large part of former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter’s unionization movement in 2014. Nonetheless, it’s good to see Cvijanovic continuing and leading the conversation.


About Jesse Kramer

Jesse is a writer and editor for The Comeback. He has also worked for and runs The Catch and Shoot, a college basketball website based in Chicago. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Follow Jesse on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer.