Johnny Newton

Illinois' Johnny Newton named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year


Jer’Zhan Newton #4 of the Illinois Fighting Illini looks on against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the first half at Memorial Stadium on October 06, 2023 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

For the first time in nearly 30 years, an Illinois player has earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors, as defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton earned the prestigious prize on Tuesday.

Newton was also named the conference’s Defensive Lineman of the Year, and earned Big Ten First Team honors in both the coaches and media polls, according to the conference.

Newton is the first Illinois player to earn the top defensive prize since Dana Howard earned the award in 1994.

Keith Randolph was also named to the Third Team for his defensive exploits this season.

It was another stellar season for Newton, who is expected to be a first round pick in the NFL Draft after declaring that he would be making himself eligible for the NFL. In 12 games with the Illini, Newton registered 52 total tackles, including 8.5 for loss. He had a career high 7.5 sacks, and defended two passes while forcing a fumble this season.

Unfortunately for Newton and the Illini, a loss to Northwestern kept the team from reaching a second consecutive bowl game, with a 5-7 record on the year.

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