"This was a very difficult decision because it means leaving the teammates who have meant so much to me the past three years," Mendenhall said. "It has been a life-long dream to play professional football and I feel now is my best opportunity to take that next step. This season has been a great growing experience and I am happy that I was a part of such a special year for Illinois football. I will always think fondly of my time at Illinois and I look forward to representing the Fighting Illini in the NFL."
""Rashard had an amazing season," head coach Ron Zook said. "His performance this year showed that he will be a very talented back at the next level. I am excited for Rashard as he enters this next phase of his football career. I can't thank him enough for his dedication to the Illinois football program and wish him nothing but the best in the NFL."
"For the second-straight season, the Illinois offense led the Big Ten in rushing thanks to Mendenhall's strong running and an improved offensive line and. The offense also posted the most rushing yards in the school's history, topping the 3,000 mark for the first time and breaking the Illinois record for total offense yards. Mendenhall set six single-season school records rushing yards (1,681), rushing touchdowns (17), total touchdowns (19), 100-yard games (8), all-purpose yards (1,999) and scoring (114). Most impressively, however, was Mendenhall's breaking of the Illinois mark for career yards per rush at an incredible 6.4 ypc rate. He topped the previous mark of 5.6 held by Pierre Thomas from 2003-06.
"Mendenhall became Illinois' feature back in 2007, starting all 13 games. He had key performances in the Illini wins over Indiana in the conference opener and No. 5 Wisconsin. Twice he topped the 200-yard mark with 214 yards vs. the Hoosiers and 201 against Minnesota. Mendenhall also showed big-play ability with 16 plays over 25 yards. Against the fourth-ranked defense of USC, he rattled off gains of 79 and 55 yards in back-to-back drives.
"Mendenhall's Honors in 2007
"* Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year (by coaches)
"* Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year (by media)
"* Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award winner
"* Third-Team All-America (by Rivals.com)
"* Fourth-team All-America (by Phil Steele)
"* First-team All-Big Ten (by coaches)
"* First-team All-Big Ten (by media)
"* Doak Walker Award Semifinalist
"* Maxwell Award Semifinalist
"* First-team All-Big Ten (by Rivals.com)
"* ESPN Helmet Sticker (9/22)
"* Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week (9/24)
"* ESPN Helmet Sticker (10/6)
"* Master Coaches Game Ball (10/6)
Story credited to the University of Illinois SID office.