Lots of Former Illini in the NFL Playoffs


It was a brutal season for the Illinois Fighting Illini football team, but for former Illini in the NFL, it was quite fruitful. Twelve Former Illini in will take part in the NFL Playoffs beginning this weekend

Kelvin Hayden and Pierre Thomas members of teams that clinched Home-field Advantage

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Twelve former Illinois football players have helped lead their teams to the NFL playoffs, including cornerback Kelvin Hayden and running back Pierre Thomas whose teams have clinched home-field advantage for the entire run.

Kelvin Hayden, CB, Indianapolis Colts –
Started eight games in nine games played, helping lead the Colts to a 14-2 season. Recorded 50 tackles, an interception and five passes broken up. He missed seven games with a knee injury.

Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints – Rushed for 793 yards in 14 games, starting six. Carried the ball 147 times for a 5.4 average, while also catching 39 passes for 302 yards and scored eight total touchdowns. The Saints finished the regular season 14-2, led the NFL in total offense and clinched home-field advantage. An early season knee injury kept Thomas from getting in full-swing until midseason.

Brandon Moore, OL, New York Jets – Started in all 16 games, bringing his consecutive streak to 93 straight starts. Helped lead the Jets to an NFL rushing title, averaging 172.2 yards per game with 2,756 yards.

Neil Rackers, PK, Arizona Cardinals – Helped lead the Cardinals to its second straight playoff appearance with a 10-6 record, leading the team in scoring with 85 points. Made 94 percent of his field goals, 16-for-17, and was 37-of-38 in extra point attempts for 97 percent. Also handles kickoff duties, averaging 63.3 yards and 14 touchbacks.

Alan Ball, DB, Dallas Cowboys – Played in all 16 games, starting three at free safety. Recorded 31 tackles and three passes defended in leading the Cowboys to an 11-5 mark.

Steve Weatherford, P, New York Jets – Played in all 16 games, kicking a career-most 80 punts, averaging 42.0 yards per kick. Downed 25 punts inside the 20-yard line and allowed only a 34 percent return rate.

Greg Lewis, WR, Minnesota Vikings – Played in 13 games, starting one, while catching eight passes for 96 yards, including a 32-yard game-winning touchdown.

Will Davis, LB, Arizona Cardinals – Played in 11 games and recorded 19 tackles and two sacks for the 10-6 Cardinals.

Duke Preston, OL, Dallas Cowboys – Was on the active roster for the 2009 season.

J Leman, LB, Minnesota Vikings – Was activated from practice squad for the final three games of the season, but didn’t record any statistics.

Jason Davis, FB, New York Jets – Was on practice squad with the Jets for the 2009 season.

Ryan McDonald, OL, San Diego Chargers – Was signed to the practice squad before suffering a back injury and placed on injured reserve.


Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers – Topped the 1,000-yard mark in his second year in the league with 1,108 yards. Scored eight total touchdowns, while adding 261 receiving yards, nearly made the playoffs with a 9-7 record.

Dave Diehl, OL, New York Giants – Completed his seventh season in the NFL, starting an astounding 112 consecutive games, every one of his pro career. Helped lead an offense that ranked eighth in the NFL averaging 25 points per game and 366 yards of total offense per contest.

Vontae Davis, CB, Miami Dolphins – Started nine games and played in all 16 in his rookie year with the Dolphins. Posted 53 tackles, had 11 passes broken up and four interceptions. His four picks are tied for second and ranks 12th in tackles among rookies this season.

Danny Clark, LB, New York Giants – Played in all 16 games, starting 13 for the Giants. Registered 53 tackles, two sacks and two passes broken up.

Eugene Wilson, DB, Houston Texans – Played in and started eight games before injuring his toe and being placed on injured reserve. Recorded 29 tackles, two interceptions, a forced fumble and three passes defended.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Denver Broncos – Played in two games, starting one, but recorded eight catches for 117 yards in those contests, averaging 14.6 yards per catch.

Brit Miller, FB, San Francisco 49ers – Was activated from practice squad for five games, recording four special teams tackles in his rookie year.

Carey Davis, FB, Pittsburgh Steelers – Was picked up by the Steelers in Game 4 and played in six contests. Rushed for 15 yards on two carries, helping block for fellow Illini Rashard Mendenhall. The Steelers narrowly missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record.

Derek Walker, DL, Seattle Seahawks – Was active for eight games, including the final seven contests, but didn’t record any statistics.

Xavier Fulton, OL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Suffered a knee injury in the preseason finale, which kept him from the 2009 roster, and was placed on injured reserve before the start of the season.

Tony Pashos, OT, San Francisco 49ers – Played in five games for San Francisco, starting one before injuring his shoulder and being placed on injured reserve.


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