Liuget is the third Illini picked in the first round since 2008.
April 28, 2011
New York - Former University of Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 18th pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Liuget was at Radio City Music Hall in New York to hear his name called by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
"Getting picked by the Chargers was a dream come true," Liuget said. "They're a team that's not that far off. The coaches at Illinois pushed me to my limit, so I feel I'm ready to come in, contribute right was and help this team make the playoffs."
Liuget is the third Illinois underclassman selected in the first round since 2008, joining running back Rashard Mendenhall (23rd overall by the Steelers in 2008) and defensive back Vontae Davis (25th overall by Miami in 2009), and is the highest Illini draft pick since 1996, when Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice went second and third, respectively.
Illinois' three underclassmen chosen in the first round in the last four years is tied for the third-most by any team. Illinois is tied with Oklahoma and Georgia with three, behind only Alabama (six) and Florida (four) since 2008.
Liuget is the first Illinois defensive tackle drafted since Moe Gardner (fourth round) and Mel Agee (sixth round) both went in the 1991 draft, and is the first Illini DT picked in the first round since Joe Rutgens in 1961 (third overall to the Washington Redskins). Former Illini DT Josh Brent was chosen by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round of the 2010 supplemental draft.
A native of Miami, Fla., Liuget had a career year in 2010, earning fourth-team All-America honors from Phil Steele and second-team All-Big Ten accolades after recording 63 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries and three passes broken up. He was a force in Illinois' 38-14 win over Baylor in the 2010 Texas Bowl, recording five tackles, 2.5 TFLs and a sack, earning him recognition on ESPN.com's 2010 All-Bowl Team. During the Oct. 16 game at Michigan State, Liuget collected a career-high 11 tackles, the most by an Illini defensive tackle since 1996. During his three-year Illinois career, Liuget had 125 tackles, 25.5 TFLs and 8.5 sacks.
The 2011 NFL draft continues on Friday with rounds 2-3. Coverage starts at 5 p.m. CT on the NFL Network and ESPN.