2. Consensus All-American
One of the hardest things to do in college football is make the All-American team. It is even harder to make it as a consensus first-team All-American.
Illinois doesn’t have a long history of consensus All-Americans. The most recent was cornerback Devon Witherspoon, who was named the 21st consensus All-American in the history of the Illinois football program in 2022. The player named to this coveted list before Witherspoon was defensive end Whitney Mercilus in 2011.
It is hard to be a consensus All-American. That means there is no question you are the best player at your position, and everyone votes in agreement. Not only did Dick Butkus earn consensus All-American honors once, but he was good enough to get the honor in his final season with the Illini as well.
That 1963 season was special. Illinois finished the year 7-1-1 and made it to the Rose Bowl where they would beat Washington. During that campaign, Butkus amassed 145 tackles and averaged 14.5 tackles per contest.
While Illinois’ Rose Bowl run ended in 1963, the 1964 season wasn’t too bad. The team finished 6-3, which included three shutouts and the team only allowed an average of 11.1 points per game. Butkus would once again have a big year, totaling 132 tackles and averaging 14.7 tackles per game.
In these two seasons, Butkus would earn the consensus All-American title and would go down as one of the greatest linebackers in the history of the game. His two consensus All-American honors are only second to Red Grange, who was named to three straight in the 1920s. That is why Butkus is forever an Illinois football GOAT.