By Paul M. Banks & Paul Schmidt of The Sports Bank and Joe Kutsunis of Hail to the Orange, “Home of the Blogging Illini”
For the All-Decade First Team Offense click here
First team Defense
DL Will Davis – 7th all time in sacks for the Illini with 15, this son of the deputy minister of Liberia (its true) was one of the most potent pass rushers of the decade and recorded 5 tackles for a total 22 yards loss in the Illini’s 2007 win over Indiana. A 2nd team All Big Ten player in 2007, and would led the team in sacks and TFLs that year as well. Taken in the 6th round of the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
DL Derrick Strong – Led or co-led team in sacks and TFLs in 2002 and 2003, part of the 2001 Sugar Bowl team.
DL Derek Walker- 10th all time in sacks in school history, and the other half of a very potent pass rushing attack on 2007, he led the team in sacks in 2006 and 2008. Though undrafted, he is currently signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
LB J Leman – What can be said about J Leman, other than to this day this fan favorite is one of the most recognizable Illini players around, even though he has never taken an NFL snap. Don’t let that fool you though; he has the stats to back up his fame. Two time First Team All Big Ten, 2007 First Team All American led the Big Ten in tackles in 2006. He is the #6 all time tackler at Illinois. He tackled ball carriers, broke up passes and fought for the American way, and is still the best sound bite around. Also, the man made the mullet cool again, no small feat if you ask me.
LB Brit Miller – The other vocal leader of the linebackers from 2005 to 2008, he moved to the middle in ’08 and ended up leading the Big Ten in tackles that year, (eat it, Laurinaitis.) and was First Team All Big Ten. And a find comedian; everyone enjoyed his “mustache day” bit from Camp Rantoul featured on Big Ten Network’s reality series “The Journey.”
LB Jerry Schumacher- Led team in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks in 2001 and 2002, is #10 all time tackler at the U of I. Earned 2nd team All Big Ten in 2001 and 2002. Also has a fantastic player picture.
LB Matt Sinclair – Twice led the team in tackles and sacks. Yeah, that’s all we got. But seriously, he was really good, even though no one remembers anything about him.
DB Vontae Davis – 2008 Playboy All American (it counts) and first round draft pick by the Dolphins, making the jump after playing only 3 years in Champaign. Was First Team All Big Ten in 2007 and a factor in the passing game of every team he played. His hitting was so hard that on several occasions he knocked out either the opposing player, or himself. And his tremendous closing speed was like the hotness of Pam on “The Office.” Even though it’s not really talked about, it’s there, it’s always been there and it’s superlative.
DB Kevin Mitchell- As unsung a hero of the 2007 Rose Bowl team as there could be, he led the team in interceptions with 5 and led the conference in defended passes. His 4th quarter interception of Anthony Morelli sealed victory over a ranked Penn State team, the team’s first since 2002. Not as hyped or well known as Vontae Davis, but just as important to the Illini’s success.
DB Eugene Wilson- led team in INTs in both 2000 and 2001, was 1st team All Big Ten in ’01 and a Playboy All American in ’02. Current Illinois career leader in passes broken up with an astonishing 60.
DB Muhammad Abdullah- As a true freshman, took over the starting free safety job from Mike Gusich in ’98 and never looked back.
P Steve Weatherford – Weatherford is the best punter in school history, and perhaps surprisingly, one of the school’s best athletes as well. Not only does he boast the best career punting average in Illinois history and the top two season averages, he was a two-time Big Ten champion in the decathlon. Ron Turner thought that it was possible Weatherford was one of the fastest guys on the team. And again…we’re talking about the PUNTER!
2nd Team offense and defense
QB Juice Williams- Impossible to sum up his roller coaster career one line. Perhaps this link can be of service
RB Pierre Thomas- T.F. South graduate (SICA!!!) was a fantastic playmaker on some REALLY bad teams. Went on to the NFL where he’s had a MUCH better career than Reggie Bush
Offensive Line- Ray Redziniak, Ryan McDonald, Luke Butkus (you might have heard, only about 20 or 30 million times, that he’s the nephew of Dick Butkus), Bucky Babcock, Martin O’Donnell (school’s most recent 1st team all-american, didn’t really develop until senior year though.
Wide Receivers- Aaron Moorehead (son of Emery, probably got a gig in the NFL of his Dad, because he really dropped WAY too many passes in college) and Greg Lewis (developed further in pros, had TD rec in Super Bowl)
Tight End- Michael Hoomanawanui (real Illini fans can easily pronounce his name)
Defensive Line- David Lindquist, Chris Norwell Fred Wakefield (Third in school history in sacks, but only played in the year 2000) Doug Pilcher
Linebackers- Joe Bevis, Ty Myers, Antonio Steele
Secondary- Christian Morton- never quite lived up to expectations but found nice NFL payday after Champaign
Kelvin Hayden- anytime you have to draft guys from the offense to go play defense for you…your defense is TERRIBLE! But Hayden was such a great athlete, both sides wanted him. Picked off Rex Grossman in Super Bowl, which makes him unique. Almost every NFL DB has picked off Grossman at least once, but only in regular season games
Alan Ball- late bloomer currently with Dallas Cowboys
Justin Harrison- Big time playmaker, very underrated
PK John Gockman- (EEK only other choice was Peter Christofilakos)
P Steve Fitts – though this was closer than you might think for the first team.
Honorable Mentions: Rocky Harvey, Jason Davis, Antoneio Harris, Jay Kulaga, Morris Virgil, Ryan Matha, Xavier Fulton, Bobby Jackson, Kelvin Hayden (WR), Peter Christofilakos,
Jon Beutjer- 2nd all time in passing efficiency. Why did Ron Turner keep benching him? What horrible crimes must Beutjer have perpetrated against the Turner family?Follow paulmbanks