Mikel Leshoure is headed to the Detroit Lions.
April 29, 2011
New York - Former University of Illinois football players Mikel Leshoure and Martez Wilson had their names called on Friday during the second day of the 2011 National Football League Draft. Leshoure was selected with the 25th pick of the second round (57th overall) by the Detroit Lions, while Wilson was chosen by the New Orleans Saints with the eighth pick in the third round (72nd overall).
Leshoure and Wilson join Illini teammate Corey Liuget, who was selected 18th overall by San Diego in Thursday's first round, as 2011 Illinois draft picks. It marks the first time three Fighting Illini players have been picked in the first three rounds of the same draft since 1996, when Kevin Hardy (first round), Simeon Rice (first round) and Ken Blackman (third round) all went in the first three rounds.
Leshoure was a second team All-American by the Associated Press and a first-team All-Big Ten selection during his junior season at Illinois after breaking single-season school records with 1,697 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. He helped lead the Fighting Illini to their first bowl victory since 1999, a 38-14 win over Baylor in the 2010 Texas Bowl. Leshoure rushed for a Texas Bowl-record 187 yards and three touchdowns, and was named Texas Bowl MVP. During his time at Illinois, Leshoure also set school records for points in a season (122) as well as overall touchdowns in a season (20). His 330 rushing yards against Northwestern on Nov. 20, 2010, at Wrigley Field broke the Illinois single-game rushing record and was the highest total in the NCAA during the 2010 season. A native of Champaign, Ill., Leshoure finished his career tied for sixth on the Illinois career-rushing list with 2,557 yards, ahead of former Illini greats and current NFL starting running backs Pierre Thomas (2,545 yards) and Rashard Mendenhall (2,539 yards).
"This is the biggest moment of my life," Leshoure said after being drafted. "I'm glad to go to Detroit and am looking forward to getting to work. Everybody had their own expectations. For me to get drafted at all is a blessing, whether it was a first round pick or a second rounder or beyond that was still a blessing. To get that call was just like the earth was lifted off my shoulders."
"I'm happy. I'm blessed. I'm just happy my name came off the board when it did," Wilson said after being picked. "I'm around good coaches, good people, and I'm happy with that. Today was an anticipation day. I was relaxed, and just anticipating when I would get picked. They told me I'll be an outside linebacker over the tight end. I'm going to start right there learning things."
Wilson is the first Illini linebacker drafted since Danny Clark in 2000 (seventh round by Jacksonville) and is the highest UI linebacker picked since Hardy and Rice went second and third, respectively, in the 1996 draft.
All three Illini picked so far entered the draft as underclassmen, joining three other recent Illini who entered the draft after their junior seasons. In 2008, running back Rashard Mendenhall was picked in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2009, the Miami Dolphins selected cornerback Vontae Davis in the first round. And in 2010, wide receiver Arrelious Benn was a second-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Five Illini underclassmen have been picked in the first two rounds since 2008, which is tied for the second-most among all schools behind only Alabama's six. Illinois was one of just four schools to have three underclassmen enter this year's draft and only Alabama joined Illinois in having all three players picked in the first three rounds.
The 2011 NFL draft concludes on Saturday with rounds 4-7. Coverage starts at 11 a.m. CT on the NFL Network and ESPN.
Fighting Illini Taken in the 2011 NFL Draft (through first 3 rounds)
Player Pos. Round Pick Team Corey Liuget DT 1 18 San Diego Chargers Mikel Leshoure RB 2 57 Detroit Lions Martez Wilson LB 3 72 New Orleans Saints