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Illinois back, Power 5′s top rusher Chase Brown opts out of Tampa bowl

He is skipping the ReliaQuest Bowl and his final season with the Illini to enter the NFL draft.
Illinois running back Chase Brown takes off against Wisconsin during a game on Oct. 1.
Illinois running back Chase Brown takes off against Wisconsin during a game on Oct. 1. [ JOHN FISHER | Getty Images North America ]
Published Dec. 23, 2022|Updated Dec. 23, 2022

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Running back Chase Brown will skip the ReliaQuest Bowl and his final season at Illinois to enter the NFL draft.

Brown had 1,643 yards rushing this season, tops among the Power Five conferences. He announced his future plans on Twitter on Friday.

Illinois (8-4) plays No. 24 Mississippi State (8-4) on Jan. 2 at Raymond James Stadium in a matchup of Big Ten and SEC teams.

“Through the highs and lows, my time at Illinois has been the best experience of my life,” said Brown, a junior who started his college career at Western Michigan in 2018. “I earned a degree, advanced as an athlete, and formed lifelong connections.”

Brown finishes his career as the second-leading rusher at Illinois with 3,558 yards, trailing Robert Holcombe (4,105 yards from 1994-97). His rushing yardage this season is third all-time for the Illini behind Mikel Leshoure (1,697 in 2010) and Rashard Mendenhall (1,681 yards in 2007). Brown set a school single-season record this year with 11 100-yard games.

Brown thanked his teammates for pushing him and his coaches for believing in him. He also thanked Illinois fans.

“Your dedication, passion, and love for this team are greatly appreciated. It has been an honor and a memorable experience to play for you all,” he wrote. “I will always bleed orange & blue.”

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