After being rated the second-highest cornerback in the country this past season by Pro Football Focus, former Illini Devon Witherspoon has just heard his name called in the 2023 NFL Draft. He’ll be heading to play for the Seattle Seahawks who drafted him with the No. 5 overall pick.
Spoon attended the draft in person in Kansas City, joined by his head coach Bret Bielema.
Witherspoon is the first CB off the board in this year’s draft, and because of this incredible accomplishment let’s take a moment to revisit the season he left behind in Champaign.
In his junior season he accomplished some great feats: one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award (nation’s top CB), consensus All-American, won the Big Ten’s defensive back of the year award, was voted to the Big Ten first team by both coaches and media, and won Illinois’ defensive MVP award.
The stats behind these accolades don’t lie, according to ESPN, Witherspoon only allowed 16 receptions on 54 attempts when he was the primary defender. He also had 40 tackles, three interceptions and 14 pass breakups on the season.
PFF also gave him the No. 1 coverage grade in the nation at 92.5.
Let’s remember — this guy was recruited out of Florida as a 0-star recruit and originally planned to attend Hutchinson Community College in Kansas before joining the Illini. ‘Spoon defied the odds, and now he’s a pro.
Illini Drafted In The First Round:
- Most Recent (before Spoon): 2012 (No. 26 Whitney Mercilus, No. 30 AJ Jenkins)
- Last Top-20 Picks (before Spoon): 1996 (No. 2 Kevin Hardy, No. 3 Simeon Rice)
- Last No. 1 Overall Pick: 1990 (No. 1 Jeff George)