No. 2 Ray Nitschke
While the Illinois football program hasn’t had many legends recently, we have had two of the biggest names in NFL history. Let’s first get to the great, Ray Nitschke.
Nitschke emerged as a great player coming out of Proviso East High School in Illinois. He joined the Illini program and was successful on both sides of the ball. He led the program as a running back and was then a dominant linebacker on defense.
After his time at Illinois, Nitschke would take his talents to the NFL. The Green Bay Packers liked what they saw, so they selected Nitschke in the third round of the 1958 NFL Draft.
The great career of Nitschke was just getting started. He would end up having a legendary career for the Packers at linebacker. Nitschke would play 15 seasons in the NFL, and he would amass 25 interceptions during this time.
Nitschke’s great play earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl in 1964 and he was an All-Pro in 1964 and 1966. He would go on to win three NFL Championships and two Super Bowls with the Packers.
In 1978, Nitschke earned the greatest honor of them all. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. This capped off his tremendous professional career. Illinois has had some special players in the history of the program, and Nitschke was one of them. He checks in at No. 2 on this list.