No Surprise, Vontae Enters NFL Draft

Top football programs have star players who are talented enough to enter the NFL prior to their senior seasons. Illinois under Coach Ron Zook now has its second consecutive early entrant in cornerback Vontae Davis. A two-time 1st team All-Big 10 pick, Vontae follows running back Rashard Mendenhall, who left for the pros last year. Davis is projected as a possible first round draft pick.

Vontae Davis has meant a great deal to the University of Illinois, and vice versa.

"I'm just blessed to have this opportunity right now," Davis explains. "The University of Illinois and playing in the Big Ten has prepared me tremendously for this opportunity. I want to thank coach Ron Zook and his staff for preparing me for this opportunity."

Vontae's decision was not an easy one.

"It was a real tough decision leaving Illinois. I had some great teammates, and we had a lot of good times. But they also supported me. They want me to do well in the future also.

"My teammates respect my decision. We have a family atmosphere, and they just give me the praise and blessings to help me make the right decision."

Coach Zook has worked closely with Davis on his decision.

"Since he's been in the NFL, Coach Zook told me how the process works. He said whatever I feel, he's gonna help me. And I believe him because ever since I've been at Illinois, he led me in the right direction. Coach Zook has been really helpful for me and supported me."

Vontae also appreciated the effort provided by his position coach Curt Mallory.

"He showed me what being a player on and off the field is like. What you do off the field is what you will do on the field. He made me a better person at the same time. He's always been on me to do the little things to help me be a successful young man and be in the position I am now."

Davis' brother Vernon was a high draft choice out of Maryland and is enjoying a stellar NFL career. He has also been supportive during this process.

"My brother has really been helpful. If I didn't have him, it'd be tougher than it is. My brother is always looking after me. He told me to go where my heart told me. If I wanted to go back to school, go back to school. Playing in the Big Ten has prepared me to take on a new challenge."

Ultimately, those closest to him helped Vontae make the final decision to enter the draft.

"I talked to the people who supported me, my grandmother, my high school coach Craig Jeffries, Coach Zook and Coach (Mike) Locksley. And also my brother. They supported me, and I came to the decision it's the right time for me."

Some draft estimates place Vontae Davis in the first round of the draft. But he says that alone did not influence his decision.

"I'm just going on being the best football player I can possibly be. Coach Zook has helped me reach some goals to have a great opportunity to enter the NFL draft. I give credit to my grandma Adaline Davis for raising me and helping me understand life."

Vontae doesn't care what team drafts him or what position they project for him. He's just looking forward to preparing the best he can for the draft and the beginning of summer camp. In that regard, he will likely be able to work out with his brother.

"I can go visit my brother anytime I want. I might go visit him and see his game with the Redskins. But hopefully I can talk with him because he can help me with the process. I might also ask that we train together so we can get better at the same time."

Davis was third team All-American by Rivals and fourth team by Phil Steele this season after being named a preseason All-American by Playboy magazine. A three year starter, Vontae was one of the best cornerbacks in Illinois history. He will be missed, but he leaves a positive legacy.

"Playing at the University of Illinois was real great. It helped me to become a man. It taught me that when things aren't going right, how to deal with adversity. If I had to do it all over, I would still have gone to Illinois."


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