Five first-rounders. In five years. And four of the first 48 picks in this year's draft.
Yes, Ron Zook is smiling.
"Not bad for a guy without a job," said Zook, who was fired by Illinois after the 2011 season.
In 2008, it was Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers). In 2009, Vontae Davis (Dolphins). In 2011, Corey Liuget (Chargers). And, on Thursday, it was Whitney Mercilus (Texans) and A.J. Jenkins (49ers).
Zook had two more of his former recruits go in the second round: offensive tackle Jeff Allen to the Chiefs and, in a major surprise, safety Tavon Wilson to the Patriots. Wilson had been projected as a late-round pick, but impressed New England with his workout in Champaign.
Only Alabama had more players picked among the first 48 in the draft (five). Stanford tied Illinois with four.
For the first time in his life, Zook has been able to study the draft as a whole. He did a nightly show this week for CBS Sports. And he's also been hanging out with ESPN's Jon Gruden.
"When I was in the NFL, I was worried about my position or the defense," Zook said. "This time, I've been involved with everything, all the positions. We probably looked at the top five rounds. What coaches think and what the media think are often- times different. That's why I wasn't surprised when they called A.J. I've watched a lot of tape of a lot of different people."
Zook liked the makeup of the players when they arrived at Illinois. But "you don't ever know if a guy's going to get drafted in the first round."
"What they've done is worked hard," Zook said. "There have been some tough times. I talked to them both and told them, 'It's all been worth it.' They'll be successful. They'll have great careers. I'm happy and proud of them. It will be exciting to see them play."
Mercilus turned himself into a first-round pick with a massive junior season. He tied Simeon Rice's sacks record and led the nation in sacks and forced fumbles. He also won the Hendricks Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive end. He skipped his final year of college eligibility.
"He probably made the right decision (to leave early)," Zook said.
Jenkins, who finished just short of David Williams' season record for receiving yards in a season, considered leaving Illinois after his sophomore year. Good thing he stayed. His last college game (the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) was in the same place where he will begin his NFL career.
"We had a lot of heart-to-heart talks," Zook said.
Zook reminded Mercilus and Jenkins they will be on their own in the NFL.
"It's just altogether different," Zook said. "They will be fine."
Mercilus and Jenkins have great work ethic, Zook said. That will be a plus as they begin their NFL careers.
Jenkins is joining the NFC's top team.
"He can mature at his own pace," Zook said. "He's going to have a chance to play, but he's not going to have to be the guy. He can just go be a good football player and grow into it."
Zook will have a chance to watch his former players during the fall. He won't be coaching for the first time in more than 35 years.
"They want me to do some TV stuff," Zook said. "I'm going to keep my hand involved in football. I've been busy the last couple months. I don't have any trouble finding things to do."