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Waiting game continues for Newton

Apr. 25—DETROIT — The wait will continue into Friday for Johnny Newton to hear his name called by an NFL team.

The former Illinois All-American defensive tackle, projected as a possible first-round pick, did not get chosen among the 32 players selected in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night in Detroit.

The second round gets underway at 6 p.m. Friday, with the third round to follow.

A year after cornerback Devon Witherspoon went fifth overall to the Seattle Seahawks, Newton was expected to get chosen in the first round.

Like Witherspoon, Newton earned consensus All-American honors in his final season playing for Bret Bielema. But Newton did not give Illinois back-to-back years of first-round picks, something Illinois hasn't accomplished since the 2011 and 2012 drafts.

Instead of traveling to Detroit for the first round of Thursday night's draft, Newton spent the evening in Orlando, Fla., with family and friends. Newton is a native of Tampa, Fla.

Originally recruited to Illinois by Lovie Smith, Newton developed under the tutelage of Bielema, former defensive coordinator Ryan Walters (now the head coach at Purdue) and Illini defensive line coach Terrance Jamison. Bielema, Jamison and defensive coordinator Aaron Henry were with Newton on Thursday night in Florida.

During a recent visit to Champaign for his pro day, Newton sang the praises of the coaching staff and his college teammates.

"They took me in," Newton said after going through workouts at the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility on April 16. "It means a lot to me. I met a lot of great people here. Some of my brothers. My best friend. I love the city of Champaign."

Early in the season, he was considered a likely Top 10 pick. But Newton was slowed during the year by a foot injury that required surgery after his final college game.

Newton finished his Illinois career with 188 total tackles, including 18 sacks. That is tied for the fifth most in school history, a total shared by greats Kevin Hardy and Whitney Mercilus.

Mercilus was part of the last back-to-back Illinois players to go in the first round. Defensive lineman Corey Liuget went to the Chargers in the first round in 2011, while defensive end Mercilus (Texans) and receiver A.J. Jenkins (49erse) got the call in 2012.