Illinois Football: Illini alum in the NFL


I was excited for the Illinois football season to start and now I am really pumped for the NFL regular season to start this week. While you’re waiting for Thursday’s opening game, and finalizing your fantasy rosters, be sure to keep an eye out for these former Illinois football players who have made the leap to the NFL.

November 17, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs guard Jeff Allen (71) blocks during the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Allen – RT Kansas City Chiefs

At Illinois: 2008-2011
Drafted: Kansas City Chiefs, Second Round, 44th overall

Allen was recently moved to RT, and was going to be part of a re-vamped Chiefs O-line. He won a starting position for the Chiefs, only to exit with a knee injury during the first preseason game. Luckily for Allen, it doesn’t look like he will miss a whole lot of time, but as of right now he is not expected to play in the Chiefs’ opener at Houston.

Oct 26, 2014; London, UNITED KINGDOM; Atlanta Falcons tackle Jon Asamoah (75) defends against Detroit Lions defensive tackle Darryl Tapp (52) and linebacker Tahir Whitehead (58) in the NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Asamoah – G Atlanta Falcons

At Illinois: 2006-2009
Drafted: Kansas City Chiefs, Third Round, 68th overall

Despite starting 15 games for the Falcons last season, he was placed on IR over the weekend for a hip injury, and will miss the entirety of the season.

Aug 29, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) is tackled by Chicago Bears defensive back Alan Ball (24) in the first half in a preseason NFL football game at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 21-10. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Alan Ball – CB Chicago Bears

At Illinois: 2003-2006
Drafted: Dallas Cowboys, Seventh Round, 237th overall

Signed to a one-year contract earlier this summer, the former Jaguar looks to be the favored starter at RCB on Sunday. With the release of Tim Jennings last week, and the shift to a 3-4 defense that seems to favor size, it looks very likely that we will be seeing the 6′ 2″ Ball opposite Kyle Fuller.

Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland (85) runs with the ball against the New England Patriots during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Cumberland – TE New York Jets

At Illinois: 2006-2009
Drafted: Undrafted

Last season Cumberland was on the field for 83 percent of the Jets offensive snaps, the most of all offensive starters – but that doesn’t seem to do him much good. He has been on the bubble for the last couple seasons – either expect a breakout season, or for the Jets to cut their losses at the end of this season.

Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (21) reacts to a turnover of downs late in the fourth quarter of the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Vontae Davis – CB Indianapolis Colts

At Illinois: 2006-2008
Drafted: Miami Dolphins, First Round, 25th overall

The Pro Bowl cornerback hasn’t given up a touchdown since week 14 of the 2013 season – that’s 22 straight weeks! In fact, Tennessee didn’t even throw his direction when they met in week 4 last season – not once. Davis was also just named to ESPN’s list of top 100 NFL players, coming in at number 71. Watch out for some more big things from him.

Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (47) against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Hoomanawanui – TE New England Patriots

At Illinois: 2007-2009
Drafted: St. Louis Rams, Fifth Round, 132nd overall

Hoomanawanui is listed as the third TE on the unofficial Patriots depth chart – third to arguably the best TE in the game, Gronkowski. Even still, the Patriots have one of the most solid TE groups in the league, even if we don’t see much of Hoomanawanui on the field, it was pretty stellar to see him be a part of last year’s Super Bowl win.

Aug 13, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget (94) looks on during the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys in a preseason NFL football game at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Liuget – DE San Diego Chargers

At Illinois: 2008-2010
Drafted: San Diego Chargers, First Round, 18th overall

This summer the Chargers signed Liuget to a multi-year contracted extension that will keep him in California until 2020 – and named him captain for the first time in his 3-year pro stint. Liuget led the defensive line in tackles, and also led the team in sacks, tackles for loss, and quarterback pressures. Big things are happening for Liuget.

Aug 9, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Houston Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Whitney Mercilus – OLB Houston Texans

At Illinois: 2009-2011
Drafted: Houston Texans, First Round, 26th overall

This past May, Houston gave Mercilus a 4-year, $26 million contract extension. In his three seasons with the Texans he has missed only one game and has tallied 18 sacks. Plus, he’s a part of an all-star defense that includes JJ Watt – he’s definitely doing something right.

Dec 7, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Akeem Spence (97) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Akeem Spence – DT Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At Illinois: 2009-2012
Drafted: Tampa Bay, Fourth Round, 100th overall

Spence has played in all 32 games of his 2 year career with TB, and tallied 3 sacks last season. Spence had some off season issues that resulted in a 1-game suspension. Before the suspension, however, TB placed Spence on their physically unable to perform list for a back injury. He is expected to miss the first month of the season.

September 22, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts offensive guard Hugh Thornton (69) blocks against San Francisco 49ers defensive end Justin Smith (94) for Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) during the third quarter at Candlestick Park. The Colts defeated the 49ers 27-7. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Hugh Thornton – G Indianapolis Colts

At Illinois: 2009-2012
Drafted: Indianapolis Colts, Third Round, 86th overall

Thornton had been the Colts starting guard for the past two seasons, but was beaten out for the position by Lance Louis. He has been troubled with injuries and inconsistent play – but will not doubt continue to pressure Louis for his starting job.

Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots defensive back Tavon Wilson (27) against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Tavon Wilson – FS New England Patriots

At Illinois: 2008-2011
Drafted: New England Patriots, Second Round, 48th overall

Wilson has been a staple on the Pats’ special teams dime defense as the “money” linebacker. Wilson had a good camp and preseason, but was listed as limited with a quad injury in Monday’s injury report.

Next: Top 5 Big Ten Heisman Trophy Candidates

More from Writing Illini