With the NFL season set to kick off Sept. 10 — unless the COVID-19 pandemic changes that — here’s a look at the 14 former Illini in the league, courtesy sports editor MATT DANIELS:
Already a Super Bowl champ, the 24-year-old offensive lineman played in seven games last season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Also saw time on special teams.
The 25-year-old linebacker for the Miami Dolphins only played in three games last season before a knee injury cost him the rest of 2019.
The 25-year-old offensive lineman is with the Steelers, trying to land a roster spot in Pittsburgh. He’s already on his fourth NFL team in three years.
The 27-year-old special teams ace enters his first season with the Dolphins. The hard-hitting safety saw his playing time diminish last season with the Bengals, the team that drafted him in 2016.
The 26-year-old former Illini wide receiver has carved out a niche on special teams entering his fourth season with the New Orleans Saints. A defensive back as well, Hardee could see his playing time increase in the secondary as well this season.
The 27-year-old offensive lineman and two-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots is off to South Beach. He signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Dolphins and could contend for the team’s starting center spot.
Talk about a whirlwind 2019. The 24-year-old kicker was with five teams last year — the Bills, Vikings, Chargers, 49ers and Colts — before sticking with Indianapolis. Now, all he has to do is try to replace legend Adam Vinateri.
The standard for current Illini in the NFL, the 30-year-old linebacker enters his ninth season with the Texans. He started every game last season for the AFC South champs.
The 26-year-old linebacker signed this week with the Vikings, ending a three-year run in Cincinnati. An occassional starter with the Bengals, Nickerson adds depth to Minnesota’s linebacking corps.
The 23-year-old linebacker will try to make the Bills’ roster after spending parts of last season with Buffalo’s practice squad.
The 25-year-old defensive end compiled six sacks last season with the Jaguars, his most productive season with the team that drafted him in 2017.
The 24-year-old receiver signed with the Packers last week after two seasons with Seattle. The Springfield native caught 15 passes for 245 yards and one touchdown last season from Russell Wilson before getting the chance to play with Aaron Rodgers.
The 26-year-old defensive end is entering his first full season with the Ravens after landing with the AFC North champions last October. On his third NFL team, the 2016 second-round pick had four quarterback hits and one sack last year.
The 30-year-old veteran safety started 13 games last season with the Lions. Now, he’s with the Colts after Indianapolis signed him last week, giving him another chance to add to his 331 career tackles.