Illinois: No. 11 football state

Originally Published: December 27, 2006
ESPN.com

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ILLINOIS' NATIONAL RANK
No. 14 pro | No. 22 college | No. 11 high school
Walter Payton

NFL
No. 14 Illinois


Da Bears. Nothing is sweeter to Chicago fans than the 1985 Super Bowl win, even though the Fridge, not Walter Payton got a rushing touchdown. This franchise, however, has been a power since George Halas founded it in Decatur in 1920. The early years include a 73-0 drubbing of the Redskins in the 1940 NFL championship game. In addition to Payton, Bronko Nagurski and Gayle Sayers have run out of the Chicago backfield. Linebackers Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary were waiting for backs long before Brian Urlacher donned a Bears jersey.
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Jonathan Bender
Bears fan Jonathan Bender: At a time when men must choose between being metrosexuals and unabashed chauvinists, the Chicago Bears offer the average guy a chance to appreciate what it really means to be a man. No other team in professional football has maintained its character and understood what drives its fan base better than the Bears. Read more from Jonathan

COLLEGE
No. 22 Illinois


Illinois played host to the first homecoming weekend in 1910. Halfback Red Grange (who helped build the young NFL barnstorming with the Bears), fullback and linebacker Ray Nitschke and quarterback Jeff George played for the Illini. Illinois has played in four Rose Bowls, while Northwestern has been to two. Otto Graham played quarterback for the Wildcats.
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HIGH SCHOOL
No. 11 Illinois


Among the football powers in Illinois are Chicago-area Mount Carmel, Saint Rita and Joliet Catholic. Simeon High is home to the nation's No. 1 ranked defensive end in 2006, Martez Wilson. Other top schools include Naperville Central and Lincoln-Way East. Bills GM Marv Levy was born in Chicago. Spring 2006 DI signees: 56. Fall 2006 high school football teams: 554.
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Alex Ruppenthal
Alex Ruppenthal: In Illinois, high school football serves as a reward for a hard week's work. This is a blue-collar state. From metropolitan Chicago to rural central and southern Illinois, people work extremely hard. Friday night (or Saturday afternoon) football is the light at the end of a long tunnel. Read more from Alex

POLL QUESTION

1) Who is the greatest Bear?

Dick Butkus
Mike Ditka
Red Grange
George Halas
Walter Payton
Brian Urlacher