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Bret Bielema planning to attend first NFL Draft

Illinois’ coach wants to be there for his guys.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Bret Bielema wants to be there for his guys — literally.

Illinois’ head football coach plans to attend the NFL Draft for the first time in his coaching career later this month, according to

This year’s draft is being held in Kansas City, starting Thursday, April 20 — one week after Illinois’ spring game.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” Bielema said last week. “I’ve had several first-round picks, but I’ve never gone to the draft. It never used to dawn on me.”

Bielema shouldn’t have to wait long to hear the first Illini’s name called.

According to CBS Sports’ latest mock draft, Illini cornerback Devon Witherspoon is set to go to the defending NFC champion Eagles at No. 10. Some mocks have him going to the Bears at No. 9, or to the Lions at No. 6 (where he’d get to team up again with former teammate Kerby Joseph).

“I didn’t even think about going to the draft,” Bielema said. “I remember there were two times when the NFL called me to try to get my players to go to the draft because they wanted those guys to be present, and it never clicked in my head, ‘Hey, Coach. Why don’t you go to it?’ Obviously, Spoon, Quan, Syd, Chase: Those guys potentially could be first, second, third round, all those guys, and it’s fun to capture that moment.”