Illinois football has a very long history of producing some of the best players to ever put on an NFL uniform.
There has been a dry spell of great NFL players recently, but the Illini are trying to get that train going again. Even though we haven’t had a ton of legends in the last couple of decades, there are still plenty of big-time NFL players who have emerged from Champaign.
Here are the top 10 NFL careers by an Illinois football player
No. 10 Kevin Hardy
First up on the list of the 10 best NFL careers by an Illinois football player is one of the more recent names on this list. Linebacker Kevin Hardy had a great career in Champaign and then went into the NFL and did some good things.
Coming out of William Henry Harrison High School in Indiana, Hardy entered the Illinois program and saw a tremendous amount of success. He would become a consensus All-American in 1995 and was first-team All-Big Ten in both 1994 and 1995.
Hardy’s tremendous play earned him national notoriety. He entered the 1996 NFL Draft and was picked No. 2 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Over the next nine seasons, Hardy would have stops with three different NFL franchises. In 1999, he would make the Pro Bowl and was an All-Pro that season. He would finish that year with 112 tackles, two interceptions, 1.5 sacks, and 1.0 forced fumbles.
For his career, Hardy would amass 740 tackles, which is the most by an Illinois player in the professional ranks. He also had 49 tackles for loss, which ranks No. 4.
The accolades weren’t there for Hardy, but he sure did have a solid NFL career. If he could have slipped in another Pro Bowl or two, he would have easily been higher on this list. Hardy ended up at No. 10, though.