Seven Illini football alumni participate in NFL playoffs


Photo courtesy of Steve Sanders/Kansas City Chiefs Website

Illinois alum, Nick Allegretti, celebrates touchdown during the Wild Card game against the Steelers on Jan. 16. Allegretti and six other alumni will be playing in the NFL playoffs.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

Seven Illini play on teams that were involved in the NFL postseason. With the first round now complete and eight teams remaining to compete for a championship, let’s take a look at the seven Illini, including a lineman who unexpectedly scored a touchdown, who have participated in the playoffs.

Nate Hobbs (Las Vegas Raiders cornerback)

One of the top rookie cornerbacks in the NFL, Hobbs burst onto the professional scene after being selected in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and he was recognized by Pro Football Focus, which named him to its All-Rookie Team.

Hobbs participated in all but one of the Raiders’ regular season games, missing the team’s Week 15 contest against the Cleveland Browns after being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

Recording 74 total tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one interception during the regular season while also making nine starts, Hobbs registered three solo tackles and eight total tackles in No. 5-seed Las Vegas’ 26-19 loss to No. 4-seeded Cincinnati Bengals in they first round of the playoffs.

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Ted Karras (New England Patriots offensive lineman)

After not seeing any offensive snaps during the first three weeks of the season, Karras lined up on offense during the Patriots’ Week 4 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Karras then started his team’s final 14 games of the season, including New England’s AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Buffalo Bills.

The sixth-seeded Patriots fell 47-17 in Buffalo to the third-seeded Bills, and Karras played 100% of his squad’s offensive snaps.

Malik Turner (Dallas Cowboys wide receiver)

Turner made 14 regular-season appearances for the Cowboys this season, making 12 catches for 149 yards and a career-high three touchdowns.

After making his playoffs debut with the Seattle Seahawks in 2019, Turner returned to the postseason for the first time in two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys this year.

Winning the NFC East with a 12-5 record, the Cowboys were the lone first-round host to lose this past weekend, falling to the San Francisco 49ers, 23-17. Turner had one catch for six yards in the defeat.

Tavon Wilson (San Francisco 49ers safety)

A 10-year NFL veteran, Wilson joined the 49ers this offseason after spending time with the Patriots, Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts earlier in his career.

Wilson played in his team’s first eight games of the season, and he made his first – and only – start against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9. After making one solo tackle in the 49ers’ season opener, he did not make any snaps with the defensive unit during Weeks 2 through 5, instead spending time on special teams.

Getting snaps on defense over the next three games, Wilson recorded five solo and nine total tackles before suffering a season-ending foot injury in Week 9. He was not active during the 49ers’ win over the Cowboys on Sunday.

Kendrick Green (Pittsburgh Steelers center)

Selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Green became the Steelers’ Week 1 starting center despite being a rookie. Green started Pittsburgh’s first 15 games of the season, playing 100% of his team’s offensive snaps in 12 of those contests. 

Green missed his team’s Week 17 game due to a calf injury and the Week 18 contest after being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, and he did not play in the team’s 42-21 loss to the 2-seed Kansas City Chiefs.

Nick Allegretti (Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman)

Winning a championship with the Chiefs last season, Allegretti returned to Kansas City for his third year, making an appearance in all 18 of his team’s games thus far.

His time with the Chiefs offense has been very limited, and he has played snaps on the offensive line in half of their games this year after making 12 starts last season.  

In one of the wildest plays of the postseason, Allegretti actually recorded a 1-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter of the Chiefs’ 42-21 win over the Steelers. The victory sent Kansas City to the second round to take on the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night.

Whitney Mercilus (Green Bay Packers linebacker)

After spending nine years in Houston, Mercilus was released by the Texans and was signed by the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 20.

Mercilus has recorded four sacks and 17 total tackles across 10 games this season, though he has not been active since the Packers’ Week 10 win over the Seattle Seahawks after he tore his biceps muscle.

He was expected to miss the remainder of the season, but Mercilus has reportedly returned to practice ahead of Green Bay’s playoff game against San Francisco on Saturday.



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