Former Illini Asamoah likely to go by third round of NFL draft

John Supinie

That 2002 Monte Carlo with 180,000 miles is about to get junked.

Oh, and former Illinois guard Jon Asamoah wants a new television, too. Other than that, he’ll take care of his parents in Park Forest with the money he gets after signing an NFL contract. Overlooked as a lineman at Rich East High School, Asamoah is expected to go in the first three rounds of the NFL draft that runs today through Saturday.

“Somebody asked me how I’m going to get around,’’ Asamoah said Wednesday after a workout on campus. “I guess I’ll get a car. The only thing I really want is a television. I’ll get a TV and find some transportation. Other than that, I’ll ask if there’s something my parents need.’’

If that seems a little casual, excuse Asamoah. The 6-foot-4, 308-pounder didn’t think this was his career path until the past year or two. Turned down by Northwestern, his first choice, Asamoah fielded one scholarship offer from Big Ten Conference schools. Other than the opportunity at Illinois, Asamoah could have picked between some schools in the Mid-American Conference and Cincinnati.

“I’m actually pretty relaxed right now,’’ Asamoah said. “I’m just wondering where I’ll be and ready to get things started. This is totally out of my control. I’ll sit back and see what happens.

“My mom and I just look at each other and say, ‘Wow, can you believe this is going on?’ It’s amazing to see how far I’ve gotten in football.’’

A second-team all-Big Ten selection as a senior, Asamoah has the size, strength and mobility to play either side and pull when needed, according to draft analysts. In his last three seasons, he had 267 knockdowns. In the last two seasons, he allowed four sacks and only four quarterback pressures, according to Illini stats.

His teammates appreciated Asamoah’s positive attitude in the locker room about as much as his nastiness on the field. He learned the aggressive attitude between the lines from former offensive line coach Eric Wolford.

“He’s the guy that taught me how to play the game and what kind of attitude you needed to play,’’ Asamoah said. “He helped me understand the game and love the game, love the competitiveness. If I would not have had him, things would have been different.’’

Asamoah’s career at Illinois was relatively injury free, but he suffered a fractured shoulder blade during the first day of practice for the Senior Bowl. It left him on the sidelines for the NFL combine and left NFL scouts wondering about him. When Asamoah was timed in 5.06 seconds in the 40-meter dash during an individual workout for NFL scouts on campus earlier this month, he likely answered their questions and solidified himself in the first three rounds.

“That was finally my big chance,’’ he said. “They got to see that I could move.’’

Now the only moves Asamoah has planned are a new TV and car.


Arrelious Benn, WR

He has the body, and the  6-1, 219-pound Benn is considered a second-round pick. A team leader at Illinois and always considered a deep threat, Benn saw his numbers slump as a junior with a transition in coaching staff and an early-season ankle injury.

Jon Asamoah, OG

Likely a second- or early third-round pick, Asamoah answered questions about his mobility at an individual workout in Champaign following his recovery from a shoulder injury suffered in Senior Bowl practice.

Michael Hoomanawanui, TE

Undervalued at Illinois, Hoomanawanui is expected to go in the fifth or sixth rounds. He bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times at the NFL combine, third best among tight ends, but didn’t run at the combine because of a pulled quad muscle suffered at the Senior Bowl. Hoomanawanui weighed 264 pounds and ran the 40 in 4.83 seconds at a pro timing day in Champaign. He missed part of his senior year with a lingering ankle injury.