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posted: 9/7/2013 9:18 PM

NFL rosters filled with talent groomed in Illinois

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  • Former 49ers quarterback Scott Tolzien hands off to running back Jewel Hampton in a preseason game last month. Tolzien, a former Fremd High School star, is now with the Vikings. Hampton, who played at SIU, made the 49ers roster.

    Former 49ers quarterback Scott Tolzien hands off to running back Jewel Hampton in a preseason game last month. Tolzien, a former Fremd High School star, is now with the Vikings. Hampton, who played at SIU, made the 49ers roster.
    Associated Press

By Mike Wilkening

If you have an interest in how former local high school and area collegiate stars are faring in the NFL, you'll want to follow the Daily Herald this season.

We will track how the area's one-time standouts are performing at pro football's highest level throughout the 2013 campaign -- and we'll detail what they are doing to stay in the league.

The NFL is loaded with exceptionally skilled players who have had to beat out other talented players to earn -- and hold -- a job. From the 53-player roster to the practice squad to injured reserve, every spot on an NFL club is special.

Look no further than Packers practice-squad QB Scott Tolzien. The Fremd product was waived in August by San Francisco after two seasons on the roster. Now with Green Bay, Tolzien is getting a shot with a club whose only backup QB (Seneca Wallace) is signed for just the rest of this season, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Yes, Tolzien will have to work his way up, but at least he has a chance to do so.

In the weeks to come, we will explore how area players are making it in a tough business. To begin our series, here's a list of players with Illinois high school or area college connections currently on NFL rosters:

Arizona Cardinals

RB Rashard Mendenhall: Niles West, Illini

Buffalo Bills

DT Corbin Bryant: Morgan Park HS, Northwestern

Carolina Panthers

TE Brandon Williams: Eisenhower HS

Cincinnati Bengals

OLB Jayson Dimanche: SIU

Chicago Bears

CB Sherrick McManis: Peoria Richwoods HS, Northwestern

CB Kelvin Hayden (injured reserve): Hubbard HS, Illini

Cleveland Browns

OG Garrett Gilkey: Aurora Christian HS

Dallas Cowboys

OL Doug Free: Northern Illinois University

QB Tony Romo: Eastern Illinois University

QB Alex Tanney (practice squad): Lexington HS, Monmouth College

Detroit Lions

RB Mikel Leshoure: Champaign Centennial HS, Illini

Green Bay Packers:

OT Bryan Bulaga (injured reserve): Marian Central Catholic HS

QB Scott Tolzien: Fremd HS

LB Nate Palmer: Simeon HS, Illinois State

Houston Texans

TE Owen Daniels: Naperville Central HS

OLB Whitney Mercilus: Illini

DE Tim Jamison: Thornton HS

ILB Joe Mays: Hyde Park HS

OG Cody White: Illinois State

Indianapolis Colts

S Sergio Brown: Proviso East HS

OT Anthony Castonzo: Lake Zurich HS

CB Vontae Davis: Illini

TE Coby Fleener: Joliet Catholic HS

QB Chandler Harnish: Northern Illinois

Jacksonville Jaguars

CB Alan Ball: Illini

TE Clay Harbor: Dwight HS

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Jeff Allen: King HS, Illini

OG Jon Asamoah: Rich East HS, Illini

WR A.J. Jenkins: Illini

TE Tony Moeaki (injured reserve): Wheaton Warrenville South HS

TE Sean McGrath: Carmel HS

Minnesota Vikings

DT Fred Evans: Morgan Park HS

New England Patriots

DE Michael Buchanan: Homewood-Flossmoor HS, Illini

DB Justin Green (practice squad): Illini

OG Hugh Thornton: Illini

S Tavon Wilson: Illini

CB Marquice Cole: Hillcrest HS, NU

TE Michael Hoomanawanui: Bloomington Central Catholic HS, Illini

OL Markus Zusevics (IR): Prospect HS

DE Rob Ninkovich: Lincoln-Way Central

New Orleans Saints

OT Terron Armstead: Cahokia HS

DE Glenn Foster: Mt. Carmel HS, Illini

OLB Martez Wilson: Simeon HS, Illini

RB Pierre Thomas: TF South HS, Illini

New York Giants

OT David Diehl: Brother Rice HS, Illini

Punter Steve Weatherford: Illini

New York Jets

TE Jeff Cumberland: Illini

Oakland Raiders

MLB Nick Roach: Northwestern

OT Tony Pashos: Lockport HS, Illini

WR Andre Holmes (suspension): Conant

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Jason Avant: Carver HS

OT Dennis Kelly: Marian Catholic HS

WR Arrelious Benn (inj. reserve): Illini

Pittsburgh Steelers

LB Alan Baxter (practice squad): Buffalo Grove HS, Northern Illinois

DE Brian Arnfelt (practice squad): Northwestern

San Diego Chargers

LB Larry English: Marmion Academy, NIU

DE Corey Liuget: Illini

San Francisco 49ers

LB Darius Fleming (practice): St. Rita HS

RB Jewel Hampton (practice): SIU

Seattle Seahawks

DE Kenneth Boatwright (injured reserve): Bolingbrook HS, SIU

DE O'Brien Schofield: North Chicago HS

St. Louis Rams

DT Matt Conrath: St. Rita HS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

CB Rashaan Melvin: Waukegan HS, NIU

DT Akeem Spence: Illini

Tennessee Titans

OG Al Netter (practice squad): NU

OT Byron Stingily: Romeoville HS

WR Kevin Walter (PUP): Libertyville HS

Washington Redskins

OG Adam Gettis: Lincoln-Way East HS

Sources: Information gathered from NFL team releases and websites, collegiate websites and USA Football.

• Mike Wilkening has covered the NFL for more than a decade. You can read his work at Pro Football Talk, The Linemakers at Sporting News and NBC New York, among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @mikewilkening. Email him at

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