Number of former Illinois FCS players in NFL nearly doubles from last season

Number of former Illinois FCS players in NFL nearly doubles from last season
Eastern Illinois alum Jimmy Garoppolo is one of 11 former Illinois FCS players on opening weekend NFL rosters. (photo courtesy Getty Images)

The number of former Illinois Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) players on opening weekend NFL active rosters has nearly doubled from a year ago.

Ten players from Land of Lincoln FCS schools will suit up when the NFL kicks off its 2018 season. The number was six in 2017.

Illinois State leads the way with six players. That ties for second most among FCS programs (along with Delaware, James Madison and North Dakota State). Harvard leads with nine players.

The six Redbirds are:  Davontae Harris (Cincinnati), Shelby Harris (Denver), Mike Liedtke (Tampa Bay), Cameron Meredith (New Orleans), James O'Shaughnessy (Jacksonville) and Nate Palmer (Tennessee).

Palmer, however, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Eastern boasts quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco) and linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (Philadelphia), while Southern has linebacker Chase Allen (Miami) and tight end MyCole Pruitt (Houston).

According to STATS FCS Senior Editor Craig Haley, 71 FCS schools are represented by 157 players on all 32 NFL rosters.

In addition to those players, EIU product Sean Payton is the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, while ISU graduate Mike Zimmer holds that position with Minnesota.

The Illinois FCS schools also have a pair of NFL general managers:  Rick Spielman (SIU) with the Vikings and Ryan Pace (EIU) with the Bears.

For the third straight season, Eastern will feature an NFL starting quarterback, NFL head coach and NFL general manager as alumni.

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