By Charlie Roumeliotis
Former Illinois defensive back Mike Hopkins dreamed about being a professional football player when he was a kid. He never made it to the NFL level, but he did reach a level not many people can say they have reached.
Hopkins, who played at Illinois from 1988-91 and served as the team captain during his senior season, is now an astronaut for NASA and has been since 2009.
Hopkins conducted an interview with the Big Ten Network from space Friday, and described his feelings when he first entered the space environment.
"It was a little bit overwhelming and to be honest, my gyros were still spinning a little bit from the launch," he said. "When I first got up into microgravity, I felt like I was falling ... and when I first got into the space station and had our chance to talk to the families, I actually felt like I was leaning on my side, so it took probably 18 hours before that feeling started to go away. But [it was] absolutely incredible feeling."
Hopkins may not be on the same ground as his Alma Mater, but he still follows Illinois football from space.
"I'm actually very fortunate," Hopkins said. "In fact, all the astronauts are very fortunate up here because we have a large support organization on the ground that helps us stay in touch with our families and stay in touch with the organizations that are important to us, so I actually get the Illinois football games sent up to me every week. I don't get to see them live, but while I'm working out I get to watch them."
Check out the full interview below and, at the end, see Hopkins display his Illinois attire under his NASA gear.