The Illinois football team just saw another of their players get some preseason love.
The Illini announced on Friday that senior tight end Luke Ford has been added to the 2022 John Mackey Award watchlist.
The award is given to the best tight end in the country. Notable recipients of the award include Kyle Pitts (2020), TJ Hockenson (2018), Mark Andrews (2017), Hunter Henry (2015), Tyler Eifert (2012), as well as many other elite recipients.
By being added to John Mackey’s watch list, Ford became the second Illini to receive some preseason love after senior running back Chase Brown was added to the Maxwell Award watch list, which is an award given to the college player of the year.
Brown was also added to the watch list for the Doak Walker Award – an award given to the top running back in the nation.
Illinois football has a budding star in tight end Luke Ford.
Last season, Ford started all 12 games on tight end, finishing fifth on the team with 15 receptions and racking up 114 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers come after his very limited role in Lovie Smith’s offense in 2020, where he caught just two passes for 15 yards.
Ford was one of the most touted recruits out of high school. The former four-star prospect was ranked 51st in the Class of 2018 and 3rd tight end in the nation. He was also Illinois’ No. 1 player. He racked up 31 offers before finally committing to Georgia, where he only spent one season before being transferred to Illinois.
Expect Ford to be much more productive this season given the departure of tight end Daniel Barker, who played a key role in Illini’s offense last season. Improving the quarters room with the addition of senior transfer Tommy DeVito will also give Ford more opportunities to return to elite status.