Illinois football is back in the Pro Bowl, as a superstar rookie is grabbing the honors in 2024.
The goal of getting more and more Illini players into the NFL has started to be achieved since Bret Bielema took over the program. Four more Illinois players were selected in the 2023 NFL Draft, and a handful of other players were signed as undrafted free agents.
Devon Witherspoon was the highest Illinois player selected in 2023, going No. 5 overall to the Seattle Seahawks. The star cornerback didn’t disappoint, as he has consistently been one of the top defensive players for the Seahawks and has 68 tackles, 16 pass deflections, three sacks, one forced fumble, one interception, and one touchdown this season.
The great numbers Witherspoon has put up in 2023 have not only caught the attention of NFL fans across the country but also have him getting into rarified air for a former Illinois football player. The NFL announced the 2024 Pro Bowl rosters, and Witherspoon made the team as a reserve for the NFC.
Devon Witherspoon making the NFL Pro Bowl is a rare sight for Illinois football fans
With Witherspoon making the 2024 Pro Bowl, Illinois now has back-to-back participants in the all-star exhibition game.
Last season, New York Jets’ Justin Hardee made it to the Pro Bowl for the AFC on the special teams. He was a wide receiver for the Illini but has carved out a really solid NFL career as a special teams player.
Before Hardee and Witherspoon, an Illinois player making the Pro Bowl have been rare. Before Hardee, you have to go back to 2016 to find Vontae Davis for the Indianapolis Colts making the AFC Pro Bowl team as a cornerback.
Illinois now has another player making the Pro Bowl. Witherspoon as a rookie earned this honor. This is the first of what I believe will be many great honors for the star cornerback.