LB Jonathan Brown, next Illini to make huge NFL presence



Illini football is a consistent winner…on NFL Draft Night.

Illinois football is winning big in 2013…for the Kansas City Chiefs. Two of the five starting OL for the NFL’s only remaining unbeaten team,  Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah, hail from the Illini football program.

And Butkus Award candidate Jonathan Brown will be the next Illini to join the orange and blue march every April to league. Jonathan Brown leads the Big Ten with 81 tackles and ranks 17th in the nation at 10.1 tackles per game. He is trying to become the first Illini to lead the conference in tackles since Brit Miller in 2008.

Illinois currently has 25 former players on 2013 NFL active rosters, plus one on a practice squad, tied for third-most amoug Big Ten teams behind only Ohio State (31) and Iowa (26), tied with Penn State (25) and Wisconsin (25), and ahead of Michgan (23), Nebraska (23), Purdue (18), Michigan State (15), Northwestern (7), Indiana (5) and Minnesota (4).

Illinois led all Big Ten schools with four players selected in the 2013 NFL Draft: OL Hugh Thornton (third round, Colts), DT Akeem Spence (fourth round, Buccaneers), CB Terry Hawthorne (fifth round, Steelers) and DE Michael Buchanan (seventh round, Patriots). This despite the team going 2-10.

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting read on this last month. 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.


11 starters! Asamoah, Allen, Liuget, Thomas, Mendenhall, Davis, Thornton, Mercilus, Weatherford, Pashos, Wilson and Diehl.

And Jonathan Brown should be the next to join them. JB is having a monster year. He has a team-high 8.5 TFLs this season, ranking sixth in the Big Ten, and giving him 39.0 TFLs in his career. People still know him first as “that guy who got suspended for kicking a Northwestern player in the nuts during a game,” but that will change.  Jonathan Brown forced his first fumble of the season against Michigan State, saving a touchdown by jarring the ball loose as MSU QB Connor Cook reached for the end zone. Jonathan Brown had a monster game at Nebraska, racking up a game-high 13 tackles and tying his career high with 4.0 TFLs, tied for the third-most TFLs in a game by an FBS player this season


Illinois has had four players chosen in each of the last four drafts (2010-2013). At least three Illini have been drafted in each of the last five drafts (2009-2013).

Sixteen Illini have been drafted since 2010, including 10 in the first three rounds (most in the Big Ten). Despite not having a first-rounder in 2013, Illinois has had five first-round draft picks since 2008, which is the most of any Big Ten team. Akeem Spence was the eighth Illini in the last six years to enter the draft with eligibility remaining. All eight were taken in the first four rounds, including four first-rounders. Four Illini DL have been drafted in the last three years – Corey liuget (first round, 2011), Whitney Mercilus (first round, 2012), Akeem Spence (fourth round, 2013) and Michael Buchanan (seventh round, 2013)

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also an analyst for multiple news talk radio stations across the world; with regular weekly segments on NBC and Fox Sports Radio. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and RSS

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