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Pro Illini: Illinois players in the NFL Pt. 2, Devon Witherspoon



Devon Witherspoon
Nov 6, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) celebrates a win against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the fourth quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Devon Witherspoon was the 5th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

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. This second article features top-five pick Devon Witherspoon. 

Devon Witherspoon is the highest-drafted Illini player since 2016.

The Illini have put its fair share of players in the NFL. Witherspoon is the 13th first-round draft pick from Illinois since the merger in 1969. Jeff George is the only first-overall pick (1989). Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice were the 2nd and 3rd overall picks in 1996. Those are the only three players drafted higher than Witherspoon.

The Pensacola, Florida native led a defensive backfield that led the country in interceptions. Witherspoon had three picks himself and led the team with 14 passes defended. As a result, Witherspoon was a First-Team All-Big-Ten selection, won the Tatum-Woodson Award (for the best defensive back in the Big Ten), and was a consensus First-Team All-American.

How does he fit with the Seahawks?

Witherspoon is comfortable in man or zone coverage. He has good length (6-foot-0) and knows how to use his long arms. Witherspoon’s intangible quality is the supreme confidence he plays with. That will serve him well at the next level. Head coach Pete Carrol has been impressed with the Illinois rookie in camp so far. “He’s aggressive, he’s a playmaker, he’s looking for plays to make, and it’s a good spot for him in that regard,” Carroll said of Witherspoon this week.

Look for Witherspoon to get the start at nickel and Coby Bryant, last year’s starter at nickel, either to move to safety with Jamal Adams on the PUP list or to get traded.

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.