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Devon Witherspoon should be Defensive Rookie of the Year

Even after being picked fifth overall, Witherspoon exceeded expectations.

NFL: Pro Bowl Skills Competition Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

As we approach Super Bowl 58, it wasn’t just Kansas City Chiefs’ Nick Allegretti staying active among the Illini in the NFL this past weekend.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon was named to the NFL Pro Bowl and even competed in the punt catching challenge.

After a Pro Bowl nod and being named a DROY finalist, Witherspoon’s rookie season couldn’t have gone much better.

On top of this, he was rated as PFF’s 2023 Defensive Rookie of the Year after posting an 80 run defense grade, a 90.8 pass rush grade, and a 79.7 coverage grade.

Witherspoon was named to the PWFA All-Rookie Team after finishing the 2023 season with 79 combined tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble, and an unforgettable 97-yard pick-six.

Witherspoon ended up being just one of three rookies to make the Pro Bowl, along with Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua and Detroit Lions tight end Sam LaPorta.

The rookie phenom even entered a very exclusive club of former Illinois players.

Witherspoon joined former Illini and Chicago Bears legends J.C. Caroline and Dick Butkus as the only three former Illinois football players to be named to the Pro Bowl as rookies.

The AP named its Defensive Rookie of the Year Finalists, which included Witherspoon along with:

  • Will Anderson Jr. - Houston Texans
  • Jalen Carter - Philadelphia Eagles
  • Kobie Turner - Los Angeles Rams
  • Joey Porter Jr. - Pittsburgh Steelers

Witherspoon ended up making the Pro Bowl despite only playing in 14 games in the regular season. Imagine what he would’ve done with those three extra games.

As the defensive back officially heads into the offseason following this past weekend, saying his rookie season was impressive would be an understatement.

The 2022 All-American picked up right where he left off when he transitioned to the professional level.

With Allegretti looking to win his third Super Bowl with Kansas City, Witherspoon will be hungry for his first taste at the NFL playoffs heading into his sophomore season in the pros.

But based off of what we’ve already seen from the young star, the sky is the limit for this former Illini great.