Illini See 3 Underclassmen go in NFL Draft's Early Rounds

martez

It took a lot longer than many experts expected, but Illinois' Martez Wilson is taking his talents south.

Not to South Beach, granted, but to one heckuva fun city.

Early in the third round the New Orleans Saints drafted Martez Wilson
and ended what was becoming something of a precipitous slide for the
former Fighting Illini linebacker.

"You know, the past couple of days were ok," Wilson said via
teleconference. "Today was more of an anticipation day. I was relaxed,
but I anticipating, waiting to see where I would go."

Maybe the reason for Martez's slide had to do with one of the
questions asked in the teleconference: He was sort of a tweener at LB,
with some teams listing him as an inside linebacker, some on the
outside.

New Orleans is looking at him on the outside.

"They told me that they want me to learn the SAM linebacker slot, and
line me up over some tight ends," Wilson said. "They want me to learn
that spot, learn more about all the positions, and then see where things
go from there."

Listen in to the whole teleconference, without the fun echoes of the Leshoure teleconference, going here.

LESHOURE

Never mind that the Detroit Lions already have a starting running back.

Never mind that the previous few starting running backs of the Lions have had...ummm...injury problems.

Mikel Leshoure is happy to be there.

With the 57th pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, Mikel Leshoure became the latest Illini runner to make the leap to the NFL, this after slipping from a late-first round possibility to a late second round pick.

"It wasn't really nerve racking waiting to be picked, for the most
part, until the first day of the draft," Leshoure said. "Then you get a
little anxious waiting to hear your name called. As for the other RBs
that went before me, that's something I can't control. I wish them all
luck!"

It seemed like Leshoure was genuinely excited to be a Lion, especially since they moved up to make that pick.

"You know, they traded up in the second round to get me and they told
me on the phone they were really excited to work with me," Leshoure
said. "I definitely feel more wanted to be there.

"I had really good vibes on my visit there (to Detroit)," Leshoure
continued. "I got a good vibe not just from the coaches but the whole
staff too, from the trainers to the kitchen."

To hear the whole conference call, and hear the special reaction from Leshoure when his teammate and friend Martez Wilson was drafted by the Saints (worth the listen all on its own), GO HERE.

LIUGET

Former University of Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 18th pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Liuget was at Radio City Music Hall in New York to hear his name called by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Liuget is the third Illinois underclassman selected in the first round since 2008, joining running back Rashard Mendenhall (23rd overall by the Steelers in 2008) and defensive back Vontae Davis (25th overall by Miami in 2009), and is the highest Illini draft pick since 1996, when Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice went second and third, respectively.

Illinois' three underclassmen chosen in the first round since 2008 is tied for the third-most by any team. Oklahoma and Georgia have also had three underclassman first-rounders in the last four years, behind only Alabama's six and Florida's four.

Liuget is the first Illinois defensive tackle drafted since Moe Gardner (fourth round) and Mel Agee (sixth round) both went in the 1991 draft, and is the first Illini picked in the first round since Joe Rutgens in 1961 (third overall to the Washington Redskins). Former Illini DT Josh Brent was chosen by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round of the 2010 supplemental draft.

A native of Miami, Fla., Liuget had a career year in 2010, earning fourth-team All-America honors from Phil Steele and second-team All-Big Ten accolades after recording 63 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries and three passes broken up. He was a force in Illinois' 38-14 win over Baylor in the 2010 Texas Bowl, recording five tackles, 2.5 TFLs and a sack, earning him recognition on ESPN.com's 2010 All-Bowl Team. During the Oct. 16 game at Michigan State, Liuget collected a career-high 11 tackles, the most by an Illini defensive tackle since 1996. During his three-year Illinois career, Liuget had 125 tackles, 25.5 TFLs and 8.5 sacks.

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