Illinois Football: Lovie Smith’s Career In a Nutshell

Jul 26, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Lovie Smith waits to address the media during the Big Ten football media day at the Hyatt Regency. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 26, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Lovie Smith waits to address the media during the Big Ten football media day at the Hyatt Regency. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Illinois football team hired Lovie Smith it was arguably the biggest addition in the history of the program.

Illinois Fighting Illini fans were so excited to see this great hire after firing two coaches within a five-month span.

Lovie brings a lot to the table as far as experience goes.  He has been coaching football since 1980.

In 1983 he became the linebacker coach at Tulsa and spent four seasons there until he departed for Wisconsin.

Lovie then spent one season at Wisconsin as the linebacker coach until departing for the same position with Arizona State.

From 1988 through 1991, Lovie was the Arizona State linebacker coach.  He then left that program to become the linebacker coach at Kentucky.

Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois Fighting Illini /

Illinois Fighting Illini

After a one-year stint in 1992 at Kentucky, Lovie left to become the defensive back coach for Tennessee.

Lovie spent the 1993 and 1994 season as the defensive back coach with the Volunteers until departing for Ohio State in 1995.

After one season as the Buckeyes defensive back coach the NFL started to call.  This was Lovie’s chance to become an NFL coach.

Lovie signed on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their linebacker coach.  He spent five seasons in Tampa Bay before getting the call from St. Louis to be their defensive coordinator.

With the Rams, Lovie had some pretty good runs for the three seasons he was in St. Louis.  But, the next step in his coaching process was to become a head coach.

After the 2003 season, Lovie got the call from the Chicago Bears to become the next head coach.

Lovie saw success in Chicago.  He had some of the most feared defenses in the NFL.

But, like most good things, that run for Lovie came to an end after a 10-6 campaign in 2012.  Lovie wasn’t done coaching, though.

In 2014, Lovie picked up the whistle and became the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  This was a short lived stop because Tampa Bay decided to move on after a clear progression with the team.

Lovie’s next stop would be Illinois where he is currently trying to resurrect a program that has fired an athletic director and two head coaches in the last 400 or so days.

Through all of Lovie’s stops on the way to becoming the Illini head coach, he has built up quite a resume.

While he was in the college game before entering the NFL, Lovie was a linebacker and defensive back coach.  He had a total of 10 players head to the NFL from just the positions he coached.

Lovie also had an 84-61-2 overall record as a position coach in college.  The teams he helped coach made three bowl games in his career and won one of them.

Lovie’s NFL experience is even more impressive.

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In the 19 years, Lovie coached in the NFL, his teams had an overall record of 167-137.  This included 2 Super Bowl appearances, 8 playoff appearances, and a 7-8 playoff record.

All of those stats are pretty impressive for a head coach.  He was also the first black head coach to make the Super Bowl.

But, what is also greatly impressive is his ability to develop great players in the NFL.

During Lovie’s time in the NFL, he helped develop some all-time great players.  Some of these players include linebackers, Derrick Brooks and Brian Urlacher.

A lot of these players that Lovie coached made Pro Bowls as well during the time he coached them.

These numbers I am about to tell you are just the Pro Bowls that these players made during the time that Lovie was coaching them.

In Lovie’s 19 year NFL career, he had a total of 25 players make 53 Pro Bowls.  Those are crazy numbers and you can view the Pro Bowl players below.

It is tough to match Lovie’s coaching ability and knowledge of the game.  When Josh Whitman hired him back in March Illinois didn’t just hit a homerun, they found a program changer.

College Football

  • 84-61-2 Overall
  • 1-2 Bowl Games

NFL Players

LB Tony Buford (Tulsa)

LB Brett Wallerstedt (Arizona State)

LB Dean Wells (Kentucky)

LB Marty Moore (Kentucky)

DB DeRon Jenkins (Tennessee)

DB Ron Davis (Tennessee)

DB Raymond Austin (Tennessee)

DB Shawn Springs (Ohio State)

DB Rob Kelly (Ohio State)

DB Ty Howard (Ohio State)


  • 167-137 Overall
  • 2 Super Bowl Appearances
  • 8 Playoff Appearances
  • 7-8 Playoff Record
  • 53 Pro Bowl Appearances

LB Derrick Brooks (4 Pro Bowls)

LB Hardy Nickerson (4 Pro Bowls)

CB Aeneas Williams (2 Pro Bowls)

DE Leonard Little (1 Pro Bowl)

C Olin Kreutz (3 Pro Bowls)

LB Brian Urlacher (4 Pro Bowls)

LB Lance Briggs (7 Pro Bowls)

SS Mike Brown (1 Pro Bowl)

DT Tommie Harris (3 Pro Bowls)

CB Nathan Vasher (1 Pro Bowl)

KR Devin Hester (3 Pro Bowls)

K Robbie Gould (1 Pro Bowl)

ST Brendon Ayanbadejo (3 Pro Bowls)

KR Johnny Knox (1 Pro Bowl)

DE Julius Peppers (3 Pro Bowls)

RB Matt Forte (1 Pro Bowl)

CB Charles Tillman (2 Pro Bowls)

ST Corey Graham (1 Pro Bowl)

WR Brandon Marshall (1 Pro Bowl)

CB Tim Jennings (1 Pro Bowl)

DT Henry Melton (1 Pro Bowl)

DT Gerald McCoy (2 Pro Bowls)

QB Jameis Winston (1 Pro Bowl)

RB Doug Martin (1 Pro Bowl)

LB Lavonte David (1 Pro Bowl)

Next: Illinois Football: Illini Team Grades Through 3 Games

It is amazing how many great players that went through Lovie’s system.  He is a great coach and Illinois will win during his regime.