I’m a basketball girl through and through, but of course I manage to catch every Illini football game as well. I’m happy to attend them in person as well, providing it’s prior to the end of November when it is freezing cold outside.Â It’s easier to keep track of football sometimes as the games happen just once a week for a short few months. So when an Illini player is drafted in the first round, it’s something to report about.
There was talk that maybe three Illini would be drafted in the first round – Corey Liuget DT, Mikel Leshoure RB and Martez Wilson (my personal favorite since the moment he arrived at Illinois) LB. Sadly Liuget was the only one selected in the first draft, but the good news is as the 18th pick he he was the highest Illini drafted since 1996. I would describe how to pronounce his name, but it seems Illini Nation has been doing it wrong for the last three years. Announcers have been saying it like “legit,” and I’ve followed suit. Apparently, it should be pronounced “leee-jit.” Let’s hope he makes a big name for himself in the NFL and then he can make sure his name is pronounced correctly.
Liuget was drafted by the San Diego Chargers, a much warmer climate than he is used to in Champaign, and he was present at Radio City Music Hall in New York to hear his name called by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Liuget is the third Illinois underclassman selected in the first round since 2008, joining running back Rashard Mendenhall (23rd overall by the Steelers in 2008) and defensive back Vontae Davis (25th overall by Miami in 2009), and is the highest Illini draft pick since 1996, when Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice went second and third, respectively.
Illinois’ three underclassmen chosen in the first round since 2008 is tied for the third-most by any team. Oklahoma and Georgia have also had three underclassman first-rounders in the last four years, behind only Alabama’s six and Florida’s four.
Liuget is the first Illinois defensive tackle drafted since Moe Gardner (fourth round) and Mel Agee (sixth round) both went in the 1991 draft, and is the first Illini picked in the first round since Joe Rutgens in 1961 (third overall to the Washington Redskins). Former Illini DT Josh Brent was chosen by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round of the 2010 supplemental draft.
A native of Miami, Fla., Liuget did some bulking up finally and had a career year in 2010, earning fourth-team All-America honors from Phil Steele and second-team All-Big Ten accolades after recording 63 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries and three passes broken up. He was a force in Illinois’ 38-14 win over Baylor in the 2010 Texas Bowl, recording five tackles, 2.5 TFLs and a sack, earning him recognition on ESPN.com’s 2010 All-Bowl Team. During the Oct. 16 game at Michigan State, Liuget collected a career-high 11 tackles, the most by an Illini defensive tackle since 1996. During his three-year Illinois career, Liuget had 125 tackles, 25.5 TFLs and 8.5 sacks.
I’m excited for Liuget, and having a guy drafted in the top 20 says some great things about the Illinois program. I hope to here Wilson and Leshoure’s names called early today.
Below you will see a fabulous YouTube video someone recorded from the comforts of their home, but in case you missed it live this will work just fine:
Here are some highlights from his career: