Illini's Nate Bussey drafted by Saints

Updated: April 30, 2011, 9:48 PM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

The New Orleans Saints apparently have a thing for Illinois linebackers.

A day after drafting Illini junior Martez Wilson in the third round, the Saints selected Illinois senior Nate Bussey in the seventh round with the 243rd overall pick of the NFL draft on Saturday.

"It's going to be amazing playing with Martez again," Bussey said. "We played together side-by-side the last couple of years at Illinois. I consider him one of my brothers. We're really close."

Bussey, who is 6-foot-1 and 217 pounds, had 83 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and three fumble recoveries his senior season. He recorded eight tackles and one tackle for a loss in Illinois' win over Baylor in the Texas Bowl.

Bussey had been watching the draft since the first pick on Thursday when the Saints finally dialed his number on Saturday night.

"I had a lot of people at my house," Bussey said. "I told everyone, 'Be quiet, be quiet.' I knew it was the call I was waiting for. It was overwhelming to see 240 picks go by. It was an amazing feeling when I received the phone call with the 243rd pick. It was the best call, best news of my life."

Bussey and Wilson will be the third and fourth former Illini players on the Saints' roster. New Orleans linebacker Danny Clark and running back Pierre Thomas also played at Illinois.

Illinois had four players selected in this year's draft. Defensive tackle Corey Liuget (first round, San Diego Chargers) and running back Mikel Leshoure (second round, Detroit Lions) were also drafted. It was the most NFL picks Illinois has had in a draft since having five players go in 2003.

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.