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Leshoure hopes to be latest Illini success story

Mikel Leshoure believes the NFL success of former Illini running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Pierre Thomas can only benefit him.

“I don’t think it’s any added pressure or anything like that to me,” LeShoure said. “I feel like if I continue to do what I’m doing and what I have done at the collegiate level, I’ll be just fine. But for those guys to have the success that they did at the NFL is a plus to Illinois football and the running backs that came out of there.”

When it comes to pure statistics, Leshoure’s collegiate resume is even more impressive than the two running backs he will be measured against in the NFL. His 330 yards against Northwestern established a new Illini single-game rushing record and his 1,697 rushing yards last season broke Mendenhall’s season record.

His success was enough to convince him to declare himself eligible for the NFL draft after his junior year.

“That game we had something to prove,” he said of the Illini’s 48-27 win over Northwestern at Wrigley Field. “Our coach came in that Monday of practice and told us a little quote that was said by the head coach of Northwestern. He called some of our guys a bunch of thugs and all of us would’ve gone to their school but weren’t academically eligible to do so. That fired us up. You could look in my guys’ eyes, my teammates before that game started and you could tell that we all wanted it. We proved it that game.”

Leshoure has been working out with Michael Johnson performance in McKinney Texas in preparation for the draft. The former Centennial High-Champaign standout is ranked as high as the No. 2 running back overall by some experts.

“I definitely had other options as far as which schools I wanted to go to,” he said when asked about his choice of colleges. “Unfortunately, I didn’t take any other official visits which I wish I would’ve done. It may have changed my decision. But I was happy with the decision I made. I was happy with my teammates, with the coaching staff. If I could go back and do it again, I would do everything the same.”