Mendenhall Becomes A Steeler

Running back Rashard Mendenhall is Illinois' first opening-round NFL Draft pick since 1996, when Simeon Ricae and Kevin Hardy were chosen.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall is Illinois' first opening-round NFL Draft pick since 1996, when Simeon Ricae and Kevin Hardy were chosen.

April 26, 2008

Rashard Mendenhall takes it for a long gain aganist Southern California in the 2008 Rose Bowl.

Former University of Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall became the first Illini taken in the first round of the National Football League draft since 1996 today when he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 23rd pick. The last two Illini to be drafted in the first round were Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice, who were taken second and third, respectively, in 1996.

"I am very happy with the selection," said Mendenhall. "I think it is a good situation for me. I am just ready to get in there and show them what I can do to contribute to this offense. I will go out there soon and sit down with the coaches and learn more about how I fit into their scheme."

Mendenhall finished his Illini career holding seven school records, including the single-season rushing mark with his 1,681 yards last season. Named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award winner, Mendenhall played a huge role in Illinois' run to the 2008 Rose Bowl. He posted eight 100-yard rushing games and averaged 6.4 yards per carry, both school records.

He ranked eighth in the NCAA in rushing and second in the Big Ten with 129.3 yards per game. His 6.4 yards per carry ranked second among running back, nationally, and first in the conference. He was a semifinalist for both the Doak Walker and Maxwell Awards.

"I am thrilled for Rashard," said head coach Ron Zook. "I have said this many times, but I feel that all of Rashard's football is in front of him. He has so much upside and I have no doubt he will be a huge success in Pittsburgh. I have a great affection for the Steeler organization from my time there as an assistant coach. They do everything first-class. I think the Steelers got not only a great player in Rashard, but a great person as well."

Mendenhall Honors in 2007

  • Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year (by coaches)
  • Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year (by media)
  • Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award winner
  • Third-Team All-America (by
  • Fourth-Team All-America (by Phil Steele)
  • First-Team All-Big Ten (by coaches)
  • First-Team All-Big Ten (by media)
  • Doak Walker Award Semifinalist
  • Maxwell Award Semifinalist
  • First-Team All-Big Ten (by
  • ESPN Helmet Sticker (9/22)
  • Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week (9/24)
  • ESPN Helmet Sticker (10/6)
  • Master Coaches Game Ball (10/6)


  • Season Rushing Yards (1,681)
  • Season Scoring (114)
  • Season All-Purpose Yards (1,999)
  • Season Total Touchdowns (19)
  • Season Rushing Touchdowns (17)
  • Season 100-yard Rushing Games (8)
  • Career Yards Per Carry (6.4)

Illinois First-Round Draft Selections

1944 Tony Butkovich, RB Los Angeles Rams 11
1954 Stan Wallace, DB Chicago Bears 6
1954 John Bauer, G Cleveland Browns 12
1959 Rich Kreitling, WR Cleveland Browns 11
1961 Joe Rutgens, DT Oakland Raiders (AFL) 4
Joe Rutgens, DT Washington Redskins 3
1965 Dick Butkus, LB Chicago Bears 3
1965 George Donnelly, DB San Francisco 49ers 13
1966 Jim Grabowski, FB Green Bay Packers 9
Jim Grabowski, FB Miami Dolphins (AFL) 1
1981 Dave Wilson, QB New Orleans Saints (supplemental draft) 1
1983 Tony Eason, QB New England Patriots 15
1988 Scott Davis, DE Los Angeles Raiders 25
1990 Jeff George, QB Indianapolis Colts 1
1991 Henry Jones, DB Buffalo Bills 26
1992 Brad Hopkins, OT Houston Oilers 13
1996 Kevin Hardy, LB Jacksonville Jaguars 2
1996 Simeon Rice, LB Arizona Cardinals 3
2008 Rashard Mendenhall Pittsburgh Steelers 23