When the Chicago Bears host the New Orleans Saints Sunday, you’ll see former Fighting Illini Pierre Thomas starting at tailback. On the other side, the Saints have another former Illini, Martez Wilson who is a part time starter at right outside linebacker (he’s two on the depth chart now) Thomas, a T.F. South product from the Chicago suburbs, were on Illini teams that went 8-38 in Champaign.
Wilson’s Illini teams went 15-22.
So is there a stat for “worst record for a school with the most NFL starters” kind of thing? Actually, there is. The Wall Street Journal published it yesterday. And Illinois is first, or last, depending on your take, among “Quiet Football Factories.”
In a blurb under “The Count,” Geoff Foster writes:
“no school exemplifies this more than Illinois. There are 11 former Fighting Illini currently starting in the NFL, yet the school have averaged 4.1 wins a season for the past 10 years.”
The blurb is headlined “Good at Producing Pros, Bad at Winning Games.”
Sorted by ratio of NFL starters to total wins, Ole Miss is second (5.5 wins, 10 starters), then it’s Illini recent Soldier Field opponent Washington (4.4, 8) then Virginia, Syracuse, NC State, and Illini brother-from-another-mother program Maryland.
This is not surprising, as the Illini are #1 in the Big Ten in NFL first round draft picks during the past five years. Even last year’s team, which went an awful 2-10, produced four NFL Draft picks. There are more Illini in the NFL right now than Michigan Wolverines or Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Illini went 14-12 under Ron Zook in 2010-11; yet produced a first and second round draft pick in each of the subsequent drafts.
The Illini have as many players in the pros right now as Wisconsin, who have been to three straight Rose Bowls.
Mind boggling isn’t it?
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Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan and 1620 The Zone, he also writes for Chicago Now. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and FacebookPowered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks