Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne is looking to prove a lot of NFL talent evaluators wrong.
The East St. Louis High School graduate was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft on Saturday.
Hawthorne was projected as an early round draft pick going into the 2012 season with the Illini.
"Coming into the season, I was one of the top cornerbacks,'' Hawthorne said in a conference call with Pittsburgh media. "I guess my stock just dropped. I don't really understand how it could have dropped that low to the fifth round. I just thank God, and let him control that.''
So Hawtorne enters the NFL with a chip on his shoulder.
"Of course I have a chip on my shoulder,'' Hawthorne said. "I thought I was better than the fifth round. Like I said earlier, it is really nothing I can control. I just leave it up to God.''
Hawthorne was happy to be with the Steelers, who were looking to add some youth to a veteran secondary.
"I loved being here on the visit,'' Hawthorne said. "They have a great group of coaches. After getting the chance to meet all the coaches, I'm just ready to go. I want to thank the coaches for giving me the opportunity.''
Hawthorne was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection as both a junior and a senior. He played in 44 career games, making 25 starts and posting 163 tackles and six interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns.
"What I like about Terry is that he has a lot of upside potential that I see in him,'' Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake said. "I think he has all the physical tools. He is big. He is fast. He doesn't mind tackling, and he can play press coverage well, kind of in the same way as an (Steelers cornerback) Ike Taylor.''
Lake said the causes for the dropoff in Hawthorne's play last season are correctable.
"Just watching it from my perspective, I think that if there is anything I can help him with, it will probably be his technique,'' Lake said. "I think he has maybe got himself a little bit out of position, and it is partly due to some of the things that I saw with him that I can help clean up. That is kind of where I see the potential in him. Right now, he is just raw. I would like to hone those skills and get him in the lab and really work with him on those things.''
Hawthorne was a Parade All-American for the Flyers, helping them capture the Class 7A state championship in 2008.
Hawthorne served as a receiver, defensive back, punter and punt returner during his junior and senior seasons. He racked up 1,009 receiving yards, averaging 28 yards per catch, and scored 28 touchdowns as a senior.
Three other Illinois players were selected in the draft, offensive guard Hugh Thornton went to the Colts in the third round, defensive tackle Akeem Spence ws selected by the Buccaneers in the fourth round and the Patriots selected defensive end/outside linebacker Michael Buchanan in the seventh round.