Illini Football All-Decade Team Announced: Part 2 Offense, Special Teams

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The University of Illinois announced their All-Decade Team this week. Today, we’ll list the offense named to the 31-player team. The squad, which honors Illini who played between 2000-10, was compiled by a combination of fan voting and input from Division of Intercollegiate Athletics staff.

The QBs are exactly who you expected, Kurt Kittner and Juice Williams

Kittner is one of the most prolific passers in Illinois history, holding the school record for career (70) and single-season (27) touchdowns, and ranking second in career passing yards. A four-year starter, he ranks second in career total offense (8,880 yards) and second in career completions (682). Kittner also ranks eighth in the Big Ten in career passing touchdowns and his 27 TDs in 2001 is tied for seventh in conference records. He had 14 games with over 250 passing yards, including six with over 300 yards. He was a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas Awards in 2001 and was a Heisman Trophy candidate that year.

He led the Illini to an out-right Big Ten title in 2001 and the 2002 Sugar Bowl, and to a victory in the 1999 MicronPC.com Bowl, and was named an honorable mention All-American by Football News in 2000. Kittner was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2001 and an honorable mention pick in 1999. He was a fifth-round selection of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2002 NFL Draft and enjoyed a three-year NFL career. He currently serves as the football analyst for the Illini Sports Network radio broadcasts.

Williams led the Illini to the 2008 Rose Bowl and broke the school record for total offense with 10,594 yards, which ranks sixth in Big Ten history. He broke the UI record for career rushing yards by a quarterback with 2,557 and holds the second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-best season rushing marks by a QB. Williams also holds the school record for season total offense yardage with 3,892 yards in 2008, and stands third in UI records with 8,037 yards. His 56 career touchdowns stand second behind Kittner, and his 22 TD strikes in 2008 rank third. He ranks eighth in career passing efficiency and his 138.1 efficiency rating in 2008 is third-best in UI history. Williams led Illinois to the Big Ten passing title in 2008 and to the Big Ten rushing title in 2006 and 2007. He also led the Big Ten in total offense and ranked seventh nationally in total offense in 2008. He ranks sixth on the UI career rushing record list with 2,557 yards and was an honorable mention Freshman All-American by The Sporting News in 2006.

Receivers include Arrelious Benn, Brandon Lloyd and Walter Young, and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui

Benn was one of the highest-regarded recruits in program history and he made an immediate splash, breaking UI freshman records for receptions and receiving yards – 54 and 676, respectively – in 2007 and returning a kickoff for a touchdown against Penn State on Sept. 29, Illinois’ first since 2004.

He posted Illinois’ sixth 1,000-receiving-yard season in 2008 when he caught 67 passes for 1,055 yards, and he stands tied for fourth in career catches in UI history with 159. He ranks sixth with 2,221 receiving yards and fifth in single-season catches with 67 in 2008. He was a fourth-team All-American by Phil Steele and a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the media in 2008. Benn was a second-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2010 NFL Draft and is beginning his second season with the Bucs in 2011.

Hoomanawanui was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick in 2008 and started 21 games in his career. Hoomanawanui was a fifth-round selection by the St. Louis Rams in the 2010 NFL Draft and is beginning his second year with the Rams in 2011.

Lloyd stands as one of the best receivers in school history and is one of only two players in school history to post two 1,000-yard seasons, along with David Williams. He ranks second in UI history in career receiving yards with 2,583 and third in career receptions with 160. He also is second in career touchdown catches (21) and 100-yard games (12), shares the single-season touchdown receptions record with Williams (10) and ranks third in season TDs with nine in 2002. He also compiled six 100-yard games in 2001, tying Williams’ school record, and his 178 yards against California on Sept. 1, 2001, are tied for sixth-best in a game in school history. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in both 2001 and 2002, and was taken in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He led the NFL in receiving yards in 2010 while playing for the Denver Broncos and returns to the Broncos in 2011 for his ninth year in the league.

Young earned the third receiver spot on the All-Decade Team after finishing his career third on the career receiving yardage record list (2,382) and sixth on the career receptions chart (147). His 890 receiving yards in 2001 rank ninth and his 178 receiving yards in the 2002 Sugar Bowl stand tied for sixth in a single game. He also ranks seventh in career 100-yard games with seven and his four 100-yard games in 2002 stand tied for seventh. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2002 and was a seventh-round pick by the Carolina Panthers in the 2003 NFL Draft. He played for the Panthers in 2003 and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006.

Offensive linemen Jeff Allen, Jon Asamoah, Luke Butkus, David Diehl, Martin O’Donnell and Tony Pashos

Allen becomes the first current Illini to be named to the All-Decade team as he carries a streak of 34 consecutive starts into the 2011 season-opener. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2010 after helping pave the way for the top rushing offense in the Big Ten and 11th-best in the nation, as Illinois averaged 246.1 yards per game. He also helped lead the way for an offense that broke UI records for points scored (423) and points per game (32.54), as well as producing the second-most rushing yards (3,199) and fourth-most total yards (5,162) in school history. Allen was named to preseason watch lists for the Rotary Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy heading into 2011.

Asamoah was a second-team All-American by The Sporting News in 2009 after leading an Illini offense that ranked second in the Big Ten in rushing at 200.4 yards per game and boasted three games over 300 rushing yards. Asamoah was a three-year starter, helping the Illini to a Big Ten passing title in 2008 and a rushing title in 2007. He was a second-team All-Big Ten pick in 2009 and an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2008. He was a third-round selection by Kansas City in the 2010 NFL Draft and enters his second season with the Chiefs in 2011.

Butkus was a three-year starter from 1999-2001, helping the Illini to the 1999 MicronPC.com Bowl and the 2002 Sugar Bowl. He was a third-team Associated Press All-American and a second-team All-Big Ten pick in 2001, and an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2000. Butkus also helped the Illini break the school record for points and points per game in 1999 with 388 and 32.3, respectively. He played in the NFL for the San Diego Chargers in 2002 and the Houston Texans in 2004. Butkus currently serves as a quality control assistant for the Seattle Seahawks.

Diehl was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2002 after helping the Illini rack up the most yards of offense in school history (5,356) at that time, as well as 446.3 yards per game, which remains an Illinois record. That offense also posted top-10 figures for passing yards (second; 3,388 yards), passing yards per game (fourth; 282.3), total points (seventh; 346), points per game (seventh; 28.8) and points per game in conference play (ninth; 26.5). Diehl was a fifth-round selection of the New York Giants in the 2003 NFL Draft and enters his ninth year with the Giants in 2011.

O’Donnell is Illinois’ most recent first-team All-American offensive lineman, earning the honor from the Associated Press in 2007 after helping the Illini to the 2008 Rose Bowl. He was a first-team Big Ten selection after leading Illinois to 3,338 rushing yards and 5,525 total yards, both school records. The Illini also scored 362 points, which ranks fifth in UI history. O’Donnell was a four-year starter at guard, compiling 45 career starts.

Pashos was a four-year starter from 1999-2002, racking up 47 career starts, which is tied for third among offensive linemen in school history. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2001 and 2002, and along with Butkus and Diehl, helped propel highly productive Illini offenses during his career. He was a fifth-round selection of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2003 NFL Draft and begins his ninth year in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns in 2011.

running backs Mikel Leshoure, Rashard Mendenhall and Pierre Thomas being named to the 31-player team. The squad, which honors Illini who played between 2000-10, was compiled by a combination of fan voting and input from Division of Intercollegiate Athletics staff.

Leshoure had a record-breaking 2010 campaign in which he topped UI records for rushing yards (1,697), total touchdowns (20), total points (122), 100-yard rushing games in a season (nine) and single-game rushing yards (330 vs. Northwestern, Nov. 20, 2010). He also equaled Mendenhall’s record with 17 rushing touchdowns, recorded the second-most carries in a season (281) and finished his career tied for sixth on the career rushing record list (2,557 yards). He was a second-team All-American by the Associated Press and a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2010. Leshoure also is tied for seventh on the career rushing touchdowns list (23) and tied for second in career 100-yard games (12). He was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.

Mendenhall previously held the UI single-season rushing record before Leshoure broke it in 2010, running for 1,681 yards in 2007 as he propelled Illinois to the 2008 Rose Bowl. His 17 rushing touchdowns is now tied with Leshoure for the school record and his eight 100-yard games in 2007 now ranks second in school history. He ranks ninth in career rushing yards with 2,539 and fifth in season carries (262). His 22 career rushing touchdowns are tied for 10th in UI history and his 10 100-yard games stand fourth. Mendenhall won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award, given annually to the Big Ten’s best player, in 2007, and was a third-team All-American by Phil Steele. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and was selected in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He enters his fourth season with the Steelers in 2011.

Thomas ranks eighth on the UI career rushing list with 2,545 yards and ranks fifth with nine 100-yard rushing games in his career. He also ranks second on the career all-purpose yardage list with 4,451 yards, and his 1,665 all-purpose yards in 2004 rank fifth all-time. His 288 all-purpose yards against Michigan State on Oct. 9, 2004, are the sixth-most in UI history and his 37 carries against Northwestern on Nov. 20, 2004, are tied for seventh on Illinois’ single-game carries record list. Thomas also was named to the All-Decade Team as a kick returner. He holds many return records, including Illinois’ career kickoff return yardage mark with 1,495 yards. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2004 and 2006, and enters his fifth season with the New Orleans Saints in 2011 after helping the Saints to a Super Bowl XLIV title in 2010.

Specialists include placekicker Jason Reda, return man Pierre Thomas and punter Steve Weatherford

Reda holds the school record for career points scored with 267 after helping lead the Illini to the 2008 Rose Bowl with a 92-point campaign, which ranks seventh on the single-season points list. He also ranks second in season field goal accuracy (16-of-18, .889 in 2007), third in career field goals (51), career field goal accuracy (51-of-68, .750) and career extra point accuracy (114-of-116, .982). A Ray Guy Award semifinalist in 2007, Reda also made four field goals of 50-plus yards, tied for the most among Illini kickers in school history. He also was a two-time All-Big Ten honoree.

Thomas broke the school record for career kick return yardage with 1,495 yards on 59 returns, and ranks third in career kick return average at 25.3. His 677 kick return yards in 2004 rank second in school history and his 461 yards in 2005 rank eighth. He also ranks fourth in season kick return average at 27.1 yards in 2004. Thomas holds the second- and seventh-best single-game kick return averages in school history and the fourth- and sixth-most kick return yards in a single game in Illinois records. In addition, Thomas’ 99-yard kickoff return against Western Michigan on Sept. 18, 2004, is the second-longest kick return and the longest non-lateral kick return in school history. He currently is in his fifth year in the NFL and will play for the New Orleans Saints in 2011.

Weatherford shattered the career punting average record with his 43.5-yard mark and broke the single-season punting average in both 2003 and 2004. He has three of the top five season punting averages and ranks seventh in school history in career punts. He also ranks fifth in career punting yardage, sixth in season punting yardage and seventh in single-game punting average. Weatherford, who was a Ray Guy Award semifinalist in 2004 and 2005, also boomed two punts over 70 yards in his career. He was a Street and Smith honorable mention All-American in 2005 and a three-time All-Big Ten honoree. Weatherford enters his sixth season in 2011 and will play for the New York Giants.

All-Decade Team

Kurt Kittner, QB

Juice Williams, QB

Mikel Leshoure, RB

Rashard Mendenhall, RB

Pierre Thomas, RB/KR

Arrelious Benn, WR

Brandon Lloyd, WR

Walter Young, WR

Michael Hoomanawanui, TE

Jeff Allen, OL

Jon Asamoah, OL

Luke Butkus, OL

David Diehl, OL

Martin O’Donnell, OL

Tony Pashos, OL

Jason Reda, PK

Steve Weatherford, P

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