The NFL postseason is down to its final four teams, and two of those remaining clubs have Illinois alums. The defending champion New England Patriots still have offensive lineman Teddy Karras listed as active.
The Patriots’ opponent in the AFC Championship Game this weekend, the Jacksonville Jaguars, are nearly University of Illinois South. The Jags have defensive linemen Dawuane Smoot and Carroll Phillips listed as active. They also have former Illini wideout Arrelious Benn on the injured reserve. Jacksonville’s owner is Illinois alum Shad Khan and the team’s Senior Vice President of Football Technology and Analytics is a 2007 graduate. Assistant special teams coordinator Mike Mallory was Illinois’ defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator in the early 2000s.
So, that got us thinking.
With several Illini left in the NFL playoffs, who is the greatest Illinois alum in NFL history? Is there a different answer than the obvious ones?
Here’s what you guys said on our Twitter page!
Grange— Andrew T. (@illini_fan12) January 15, 2018
Grange— Zach Carlson (@zcarl02) January 15, 2018
Dick Butkus— Chris Lettow (@chris_lettow) January 15, 2018
Without Red Grange there is no NFL. That simple.— kevin kelsey (@imkpkelsey) January 15, 2018
Butkus by a furlong.— Isadora Sweethart (@IsadoraIzzy) January 15, 2018
Butkus, without question!— RPro (@rickpro13) January 15, 2018
You get the point.
Other answers included Simeon Rice, Kurt Kittner, Vonte Davis and Jeff George, but the easy (and obvious) answers are Dick Butkus and Harold “Red” Grange, the two Illini with their jerseys retired in Memorial Stadium.
But with an upset over Tom Brady and the Patriots, maybe this Jaguars team is the greatest group of Illini in NFL history...