Spence To Enter 2013 NFL Draft

Spence finished his classwork earlier this week and will graduate on Saturday with a degree in communications.
Spence finished his classwork earlier this week and will graduate on Saturday with a degree in communications.

Dec. 21, 2012

Spence Press Conference | Spence Interview

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois redshirt-junior defensive tackle Akeem Spence announced Friday that he will forgo his senior season at Illinois to enter the 2013 NFL Draft, which will take place April 25-27 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Spence finished his classwork earlier this week and will graduate on Saturday with a degree in communications.

After redshirting in 2009, Spence started every game of his Illinois career, making 38 consecutive starts over the last three seasons. The Fort Walton Beach, Fla., native was third on the team with 72 tackles and tied for second with 7.0 TFLs in 2012, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors for his effort. He ended his UI career with a bang, posting career highs of 11 tackles, seven solos and two TFLs in the 2012 finale at Northwestern.

During his career, Spence helped lead the Fighting Illini to back-to-back bowl wins in 2010 (Texas Bowl) and 2011 (Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl), a feat that had never been accomplished at Illinois before. He was an anchor on the 2011 Illini defensive unit that finished the season ranked seventh nationally in total defense. For his career, Spence totaled 186 tackles, 16.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks.

Akeem Spence statement:
"I would like to thank the University of Illinois for giving me an opportunity to become a great student-athlete. The current and past coaching staffs have been very supportive throughout my collegiate career. I can't say enough about the extremely loyal fans and the entire athletic department, who have all made my collegiate experience an unforgettable one. This has been a very important time in my life. My family and I look forward to the journey ahead and we expect nothing less than greatness on and off the field. Lastly, I deeply want to thank my father for being an incredible dad and teaching me valuable life lessons that will forever be instilled in me. It's a wonderful feeling knowing your father is in your life and wants nothing but the best for his wife and kids. With all this in mind, I have decided to forgo my senior year and enter the 2013 NFL Draft. God bless the entire Illinois community: students, professors, athletic department and fans."

Illinois head coach Tim Beckman on Spence:
"We wish Akeem nothing but the best as he moves on to the next phase of his football career. Akeem will earn his degree from the University of Illinois this weekend and worked very hard on the field and in the classroom to put himself in this position. He'll always be a part of the Fighting Illini family and I am confident he can have a successful professional career."

Spence is the eighth Illini in the last six years to enter the draft with eligibility remaining. The previous seven all were taken in the first three rounds, including four first-rounders, which is tied for the second-most among all schools with Florida and USC, behind only Alabama's nine. It also marks the third-straight year that an Illini defensive lineman has entered the draft with eligibility remaining. The previous two, DT Corey Liuget in 2010 and DE Whitney Mercilus in 2011, both were drafted in the first round.

 Illini Early NFL Draft Entrants (since 2008)
Year  Player   Round (Pick)   Team 
2008 Rashard Mendenhall, RB 1 (23) Steelers
2009 Vontae Davis, CB 1 (25) Dolphins
2010 Arrelious Benn, WR 2 (39) Buccaneers
2011 Corey Liuget, DT 1 (18) Chargers
2011 Mikel Leshoure, RB 2 (57) Lions
2011 Martez Wilson, LB 3 (72) Saints
2012 Whitney Mercilus, DE 1 (26) Texans
2013 Akeem Spence, DT