KANSAS CITY – Devon Witherspoon, an All-American from the University of Illinois, was selected fifth overall by the Seattle Seahawks during the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday. Witherspoon became the highest-drafted defensive back in Illini history and the seventh top-10 pick from the university.
During his final season in college, Witherspoon was a standout player in the nation, allowing only 3.3 yards per attempt, according to ESPN, and going the entire season without allowing a touchdown pass in coverage. He was the first Thorpe Award finalist in Illinois’ history and was one of the top three defensive backs in college football.
Witherspoon is also part of a select group of Illini players to be drafted in the top five, alongside Jeff George, Kevin Hardy, Simeon Rice, Dick Butkus, and Joe Rutgens. It has been over a decade since the University of Illinois has had a first-round draft pick, with Whitney Mercilus and A.J. Jenkins selected in 2012.
Devon Witherspoon’s selection marks the seventh first-round draft pick during Bret Bielema’s 13-year coaching career. Bielema, the head coach for the Fighting Illini, has seen Witherspoon’s growth as a player, transforming from an unknown talent into an All-Big Ten performer and finally becoming one of the nation’s top players.
The Seahawks have only drafted one Fighting Illini player before Witherspoon, Rich Grimmett in the 1978 draft.