Vontae Davis, Brit Miller and Arrelious Benn were selected for the first team by conference media. The media included junior quarterback Juice Williams, senior center Ryan McDonald, and senior left tackle Xavier Fulton on their second unit. And junior guard Jon Asamoah, junior tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and senior defensive end Derek Walker were honorable mention.
All nine Illinois players were singled out by the coaches as well, although the order was different. Davis was the lone first teamer. Miller, Benn, and Fulton were second teamers, and Asamoah, Hoomanawanui, McDonald, Walker and Williams were given honorable mention status by the coaches.
With players scattered to their homes for the Thanksgiving holiday, only Brit Miller was available for media questioning.
"I'm pumped about it," Miller admitted. "I'm proud of the other guys who got mentioned. We didn't have the season we wanted, but overall I'm excited about it. It's something I wanted to accomplish going into the season.
"It is nice to be recognized with some of the other athletes who received similar honors over the years. I worked my way up from not knowing much. But if you just keep playing the game hard and loving it, the game will take you places. I was able to accomplish that."
Miller ranks third at this moment in total season tackles nationally.
"That's one of the things my dad kept track of for me later in the season. When you're in a successful conference like the Big Ten, you're gonna be involved in a lot of plays. I just wanted to play as hard as I could, especially as my days as a Fighting Illini wound down."
Despite the joy of accomplishment, Brit can't shake the fact there's no bowl game in his future. The awards don't wipe out the pain.
"Not for me. It's one of those things I wanted. The bowl is the end all, it's the thing you really want more than anything. The awards, being recognized are secondary to that. I know I will look back 5 to 10 years from now and know I was selected with elite company. But not making a bowl game will be disappointing for awhile.
"Things didn't turn out the way I planned. I don't think I will be able to watch some of the bowls. I always like watching the National Championship game, and I love watching BCS games. Those are the best teams in the land. I'm happy for those other guys, but in our eyes we underachieved a little bit so it will be tough to watch some of them."
With a number of Illinois award recipients being underclassmen, Miller sees a bright future.
"I think we're back on track as a program. I know the object is to win more, but as our young guys gain more experience, they're gonna get better and better. It was hard to believe Benn would get that much better than he was as a freshman, but he did. I think Vontae matured as well.
"I think our offense coming back will be tough to stop. Maybe missing out on a bowl game will light a fire under some people and propel them to get over the hump. Some things that just weren't able to happen this year. The ones who got the accolades, they really are special football players."