Martez Wilson Forgoes Final Year, Enters NFL

Fighting Illini middle linebacker Martez Wilson has decided to enter the NFL draft after an outstanding season helping his team to a Texas Bowl victory over Baylor. The first team All Big-10 selection suffered two debilitating injuries in his Illini career that limited his effectiveness. But he finally displayed his outstanding athleticism and leadership in 2010.

Illinois middle linebacker Martez Wilson has made a decision about his football future.

"Over the last several days and long sleepless nights, I've been pondering my future as a student and an athlete, looking at life from all the different angles, weighing the good and the bad," Wilson said. "Ultimately, after countless discussions with my family and prayer to God, I have come to a decision regarding my future."

Coming out of Simeon High School in Chicago, Wilson arrived in Champaign as one of the highly touted recruits of Illinois's heralded 2007 class. Wilson appeared in all 13 games for the Illini as an outside linebacker as a true freshman, helping the team to nine wins and a trip to the Rose Bowl. He played 11 games as a sophomore in 2008, totaling 69 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks, before being moved to middle linebacker to start his junior year.

In the season opener of his junior year, Wilson suffered a herniated disc in his neck and required surgery that rendered him unable to finish the remainder of the 2009 season. As a result, he was granted a medical redshirt. This season, as a redshirt junior, he evolved into one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten Conference.

"After much deliberation and prayer, I have decided to forego my final year of eligibility at the University of Illinois and enter my name in the NFL Draft," Wilson said. "I have thoroughly enjoyed playing football at the University of Illinois. I will always value Coach (Ron) Zook and the coaching staff, athletic trainers, professors, friends and the entire Illini Nation for the support that they've given me throughout my career at Illinois. I especially want to thank my Illini brothers for playing by my side and helping me have a great career."

"In the end, my decision came down to achieving my goals," Wilson continued. "This year, I've accomplished two very important personal goals: to be the first in my family to obtain a college degree and to help Illinois win a bowl game. After weighing all my options, I've decided it was time to pursue my next goal and take my game to the next level. Without God and the support of my family, especially my parents, Michael Whitehead & Kyica Burton, this would not be possible, and for that I am thankful."

Wilson earned first team All-Big Ten honors by the media for his effort on the field during the 2010 campaign. He led Illinois and ranked fourth in the Big Ten in tackles (112) and also added 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, three forced fumbles, four quarterback hurries, four pass breakups, an interception, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick. Wilson led the Illini to their first bowl win since 1999 with seven tackles, including one TFL, in Illinois's 38-14 victory over Baylor in the 2010 Texas Bowl.

"I know the NFL has been Martez's goal and dream for many years, and I'm very proud and happy he'll have the opportunity to make that a reality," Illinois Coach Ron Zook said. "He's on track to finish up his degree from the University of Illinois in May and is prepared to take this next step in his life and career. Martez had an outstanding season for us and was recognized as an All-Big Ten linebacker. The entire Fighting Illini family wishes him nothing but the utmost success as he enters the NFL."

Wilson is the fourth Illini in the last four years to enter the draft with eligibility remaining. In 2008, running back Rashard Mendenhall was picked in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, in 2009 the Miami Dolphins selected cornerback Vontae Davis in the first round and in 2010 wide receiver Arrelious Benn was a second round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The 2011 NFL Draft will take place April 28-30 at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

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