Top corner Davis to go pro

Illinois junior cornerback Vontae Davis will forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the 2009 NFL draft.

The two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection could be the first cornerback selected in April's draft. Davis' older brother, Vernon, plays tight end for the San Francisco 49ers.

"It has been a goal of mine for a long time to have the opportunity to play in the NFL," Davis said in a statement. "I thank Coach [Ron] Zook and all my teammates at Illinois who have helped me get to this place. Because I was able to get on the field early at Illinois and because Coach Zook believed in me so much, I think I am ready for the new challenge that professional football brings."

Davis, a three-year starter for the Illini, led Big Ten cornerbacks with 78 tackles to go along with two interceptions and 10 pass deflections this season. As a sophomore he recorded four interceptions, eight pass breakups and a career-best 13 solo tackles against USC in the Rose Bowl.

The 6-foot, 204-pound Davis was twice named a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award.

"I am very happy and proud for Vontae," Zook said in a statement. "We knew when he arrived on campus three years ago that he was an athlete capable of making the jump from college football to the professional game. We believe that coaching is about helping athletes achieve their goals. It has definitely been a goal of Vontae's to play at the next level."

Adam Rittenberg covers the Big Ten for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com.