CHAMPAIGN, Ill.- When most people watch football on Sunday, they notice former college stars from USC, Miami ("the U!"), Ohio State, Norte Dame and Michigan.
Rarely do University of Illinois alums make headlines. Sure Illinois hails prominent former athletes such as George Halas, Red Grange and Dick Butkus. But over the years the notable alumni has thinned. However, this past Sunday, former Illinois football players shined in the NFL.
The New Orleans Saints' Pierre Thomas ran for 102 yards against Atlanta with a 6.4 average and a rushing touchdown. Thomas also scored on a seven-yard pass reception in the Saints' 29-25 win.
The Indianapolis Colts' cornerback Kelvin Hayden intercepted two passes against the lowly Cincinnati Bengals in a 35-3 Colts' win. Hayden returned one of his picks for an 85-yard touchdown, his first career regular season touchdown.
Neil Rackers kicked two field goals and four extra points to help lead the Cardinals to a 34-10 win over the St. Louis Rams and in doing so, Arizona wrapped up the NFC West Division Title. This is the Cardinals' first division championship since 1975, when they played in St. Louis and will host their first home playoff game since 1947, when they were in Chicago.
Along with these performances, Dave Diehl (New York Giants), Tony Pashos (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Steve Weatherford (Jacksonville Jaguars) also remained consistent for their teams despite losing efforts.
Illinois may not boast the NFL's top athletes or be home to Rose Bowl and BCS Championships, but a sense of pride was returned to the school Sunday.