by Peyton Wesner
Because of current circumstances, the 2020 NFL Draft has become a must-watch event in the deprived world of sports.
Yet, will a Fighting Illini hear his name called during the three-day event? Yes! Maybe? No.
Defensive end Oluwole Betiku Jr. has the best chance. The junior from Lagos, Nigeria, terrorized offenses with nine sacks in ten games last season. Oh, and you cannot forget the 3.5-sack performance Betiku Jr. had against UConn in just his second appearance with Illinois.
Senior running back Reggie Corbin is another candidate. Corbin posted a 1,000-yard, nine-touchdown campaign in 2018, instantly becoming a household name throughout the Big Ten Conference. However, last year saw some hiccups as his average carry was almost cut in half — falling from 8.5 yards per carry in 2018 to 4.7 yards in 2019.
Yet, who would you take with the first overall pick in a Fighting Illini draft? That’s right — if you could choose any former University of Illinois athletics great, who would you pick?
There are football legends such as Red Grange and Dick Butkus. Both have their numbers retired at Memorial Stadium and Grange’s three years as a Consensus All-America player speak for itself.
In men’s basketball, names such as Derek Harper, Deron Williams and Dee Brown resonate as those who left a legacy at Assembly Hall, now known as State Farm Center. If you take any starter from the 2004-05 Fighting Illini men’s basketball team, you would be in good shape. After all, Williams, Brown, Luther Head, Roger Powell Jr. and James Augustine all scored over 1,100 points in their respective careers.
Don’t forget about the non-revenue sports! Isaiah Martinez was a beast on the mat for Jim Heffernan’s wrestling team. Martinez was a four-time NCAA All-American and two-time National Champion at 157 pounds. Martinez is dominance personified.
Ali Bastianelli, a middle blocker on the volleyball team, led Illinois to the Final Four in 2018. Plus, her individual accolades aren’t too shabby! Bastianelli is a four-time All-Big Ten honoree, including a member of the All-Big Ten Freshman Team and All-Big Ten First Team her senior year.
So who will you pick? Tick tock!