Illini's Mikel Leshoure drafted by Lions

Updated: April 29, 2011, 9:39 PM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

Two Illinois juniors were selected in Friday's NFL draft.

Running back Mikel Leshoure was selected No. 57 overall by the Detroit Lions in the second round while linebacker Martez Wilson followed in the third round at No. 72 by the New Orleans Saints.

Leshoure said he was satisfied with where he was picked.

"This is the biggest moment of my life," Leshoure said. "I'm finally glad my name was called. I'm happy Detroit selected me and will give me an opportunity to help their program, and I'm just looking forward to getting to work.

"Everybody has their own expectations [for the draft.] For me, to get drafted wherever I got drafted is a blessing. Whether it's the first round or second round or anywhere after that is a blessing. To say it's disappointing [to be picked No. 57] is something I wouldn't say."

Leshoure, who is 5-foot-11, 227 pounds, was named the Illini's MVP last season after setting single-season records with 1,697 rushing yards, 122 points, 20 touchdowns, nine 100-yard rushing games and five consecutive 100-yard rushing games. He ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries in Illinois' win over Baylor Bears in the Texas Bowl.

"He can come out of the backfield and catch it," ESPN NFL draft analyst Jon Gruden said. "I love what he did against Baylor in the bowl game. He's proven he has great vision. He's not an ultra-elusive back. You would want to see more down-to-down production from Leshoure.

"But I love his upside, I love his size, and I really love the combination of [Lions running back] Jahvid Best and Leshoure together."

Wilson, who is 6-4 and 250 pounds, had 112 tackles, four sacks, one interception, four pass break-ups and three forced fumbles last season for the Illini.

"My goal is to be the most complete football player in the game," Chicago-native Wilson said earlier in the week. "I want to learn from the veterans around me. I want to learn as much about the game as possible. My athletic ability is there. That will stay as long as I continue to work, and I'll do that. I think I can be a very successful player."

Illinois junior defensive tackle Corey Liuget was selected No. 18 overall in the first round by the San Diego Chargers on Thursday.

"I'm so happy," Leshoure said on Friday. "I saw Corey walk across that stage [on Thursday], and I felt like it was me. I had goose bumps. Now to see that Tez was drafted, it's complete."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.

Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.