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Pro Illini: Illinois football players in the NFL, the Rookies



Pro Illini
Mar 5, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Illinois running back Chase Brown (RB04) during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Illini: Fighting Illini Players in the Pros

The Pro Illini series is all about Illini athletes that have made it to the professional ranks. Because football season is upon us, Pro Illini will initially focus on Illini football. The Fighting Illini currently have 29 players in the NFL. The Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, and Washington Commanders have three Illini players on their rosters. The Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, and New York Jets have two.

The first series will take a look at NFL rookies. Our debut article focuses on one of the best offensive players in recent Illini history, Chase Brown.

 Pro Illini Part One: Chase Brown

Canada has produced its fair share of outstanding running backs. From legends of yesteryear like Bronko Nagurski to more recent players like Tim Biakabatuka, our neighbors to the north have produced some outstanding running backs. Chase Brown could be the best when it’s all said and done.

Brown, a transfer from Western Michigan, became one of Illinois’ best rushers because he had to be. In 2021, he and Josh McCray formed quite a tough 1-2 punch in the backfield. However, in 2022 McCray got hurt, and Brown had to carry the load for the Illini. Not only did the Western Michigan transfer carry the rushing load, but he also had one of the best seasons in program history.

Chase Brown’s 1,643 yards are the third-best season in program history, and his 3,206 yards are second only behind Robert Holcombe.

Brown in the NFL

After a solid Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, Brown was drafted in the fifth round of the 2023  NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He’s third on the depth chart behind Joe Mixon and Trayveon Williams. However, with Samaje Perine gone to the Denver Broncos, there are carriers to be had. Brown and Williams are similar in stature, but Brown is more explosive. Expect Brown to step in and compete for RB2 behind Mixon.


Armchair Illini is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering University of Illinois Athletics owned and operated by Alex Kyi. Dante Pryor has been writing about College Football for years on Saturday Blitz and is now the Lead Football Author for Armchair Illini.