The All-Time Illinois NFL Team
Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke and more
There were four middle linebackers selected to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team. The University of Illinois produced two of them, Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke. This year Butkus also was named one of the five middle linebackers on the NFL’s 100th anniversary team.
If you’re getting the impression Illinois is pretty good at churning out linebackers, you are correct. Butkus and Nitschke are merely the top of the mountain. Illinois also has produced three other linebackers whose career lasted at least 11 seasons. Scott Studwell played 14 years, all with the Minnesota Vikings, Ed Brady played 12 and Danny Clark 11.
Like Butkus, Kevin Hardy played nine seasons as did Ron Acks. Whitney Mercilus just completed his 10th season with the Green Bay Packer and John Holecek played seven years. Darrick Brownlow played six seasons and was a special-teams ace on a Super Bowl champion in Dallas. Jack Squirek played five seasons and returned an interception for a touchdown for Oakland in a Super Bowl.
Hardy and Studwell joined Butkus and Nitschke as Pro Bowlers and Studwell has been enshrined in the Vikings’ Ring of Honor. Nitschke played on five NFL champions in Green Bay and Brownlow and Squirek also own Super Bowl rings. Butkus was the third overall pick of the 1965 NFL draft and Hardy the second overall selection of the 1996 draft.
Butkus and Nitschke are among the five Hall of Famers produced by the Fighting Illini along with George Halas, Red Grange and Bobby Mitchell. Halas earned his bust as a coach but also was an end on the 1920s NFL all-decade team.
Here’s is the all-time University of Illinois NFL team:
QB—Jeff George, 12 seasons, 27,602 passing yards, 154 TDs.
RB—Red Grange, Hall of Fame.
FB—Bill Brown, 4 Pro Bowls, 5,838 rushing yards, 52 TDs.
WR—Bobby Mitchell, Hall of Fame.
WR—George Halas, Hall of Fame.
TE—Ken Dilger, Pro Bowl, 10 seasons, 356 career catches, 24 TDs.
OT—Ernie McMillan, 4 Pro Bowls, 15 seasons, 185 career starts.
OT—Doug Dieken, Pro Bowl, 14 seasons, 184 career starts.
G—Revie Sorey, 8 seasons, 77 career starts.
G—David Diehl, Pro Bowl, 11 seasons, 160 career starts.
C—Larry McCarren, 2 Pro Bowls, 12 seasons, 154 career starts,
DE—Simeon Rice, 3 Pro Bowls, 12 seasons, 122 career sacks.
DE—Ed O’Bradovich, 10 seasons, 99 career sacks, NFL champion.
DT—Les Bigaman, 3 Pro Bowls, 7 seasons, 57 career starts, NFL champion.
DT—Joe Rutgens, 2 Pro Bowls, 9 seasons, 99 career starts.
LB—Dick Butkus, Hall of Fame.
LB—Ray Nitschke, Hall of Fame.
LB—Scott Studwell, 2 Pro Bowls, 14 seasons, 160 career starts.
CB—J.C. Caroline, 1 Pro Bowl, 10 seasons, 24 career interceptions.
CB—Vontae Davis, 2 Pro Bowls, 10 seasons, 22 career interceptions.
S—Eugene Wilson, 8 seasons, 14 interceptions, Super Bow champion.
S—Henry Jones, 1 Pro Bowl, 12 seasons, 18 career interceptions.
K—Neil Rackers, 1 Pro Bowl, 12 seasons, six 100-point seasons.
KR—Abe Woodson, 5 Pro Bowls, 9 seasons, 2 KR titles, 7 career TDs.
LS—Adam Lingner, 13 seasons, 4 AFC titles with Buffalo Bills.
ST—Darrick Brownlow, 6 seasons, Super Bowl champion.