Although they aren’t the most represented college in recent years, the Illinois Fighting Illini have been represented well in the NFL. Their former athletes have been prominently displayed in the history books of pro football. Two of the biggest former Illini from the past made their pro names in Illinois: George Halas and Dick Butkus.
After playing for the Fighting Illini, Halas played, coached, and owned for one team in the NFL and that was the Chicago Bears. Halas was a Coach of the Year, eight-time NFL Champion, a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1920s, and a co-founder of the NFL. One of the lasting names in football, Halas has his name on the Chicago Bears’ current headquarters and the NFC Championship trophy. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963.
Just like Papa Bear Halas, Dick Butkus is one of the biggest names in pro football and Illinois football. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 1st round after playing for the Illini. As a pro, he made it to eight Pro Bowls, was named Defensive Player of the Year twice, and had his number retired by the Bears.
Papa Bear and Dick Butkus really had great pro careers in the NFL after leaving the Fighting Illini. They are some of the most decorated athletes coming out of Illinois, but who are the most successful former Illini currently in the NFL?