Ten total former Illinois Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) players appear on opening NFL rosters. Seven of those are active for week one.
A year ago, 10 ex-Illinois FCS players made NFL rosters; the number was six in 2017.
According to a story by STATS FCS, a whopping 167 players from current FCS schools are part of the 32 opening-day rosters for the NFL's 100th season, which kicks off Thursday night when the Bears and Packers renew their age-old rivalry.
In addition, 43 players are currently signed to practice squads (which go through frequent changes) and the FCS haul in the NFL is 210.
Illinois State leads the way with six players. Those Redbirds are: B.J. Bello (Houston-IR), Davontae Harris (Denver), Shelby Harris (Denver), Mike Liedtke (Tampa Bay-IR) and James O'Shaughnessy (Jacksonville). Former Redbird receiver and Chicago native Cameron Meredith is on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list for New England.
Eastern Illinois has two players in the NFL. The Panthers boast quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco) and linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (Philadelphia).
Southern Illinois has tight end MyCole Pruitt (Tennessee) and Western Illinois has defensive tackle Khalen Saunders (Kansas City).
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 fourth straight season, Eastern will feature an NFL starting quarterback, NFL head coach and NFL general manager as alumni.