Three more Illini joined Hugh Thornton as draft picks Saturday, giving the school more selections than any other conference program.
Akeem Spence, Tampa Bay, fourth round (100th overall)
The defensive tackle has thrown around offensive linemen on the college ranks. He nearly did the same to his 7-year-old brother Andre when Bucs coach Greg Schiano called.
“I screamed, I jumped, and I almost threw my little brother out of the chair,” Spence said. “It’s a sigh of relief.”
Tampa Bay traded up for the right to select Spence, giving away a fourth-round and sixth-round pick.
“They liked how I got off the ball and the way I play with leverage,” Spence said. “I make a lot of plays chasing the ball down the field. They believe I can be a pass rusher who gets up the field more. They told me that from Day 1. They told me I was their favorite defensive tackle. They actually came through.”
Terry Hawthorne, Pittsburgh, fifth round (150th overall)
Gives the Steelers a dash of speed as a nickelback. An angry one at that. “Of course, I have a chip on my shoulder. I thought I was better than the fifth round,” he said.
Michael Buchanan, New England, seventh round (226th overall)
The pass rusher is back with friend and former Illini Tavon Wilson, the two chatting Saturday. “He basically called to welcome me and said he’s glad I’m going to be a teammate again,” Buchanan said.