BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Lionel Antoine, the Bears number one pick in the 1972 NFL Draft, says injuries curtailed his pro football career. Antoine is still bothered by a swollen knee and has a tough time walking.
The 1968 Nichols High School graduate signed a football scholarship with Southern Illinois and became a standout tight end.
An-twine said he chose the Salukis, a Division-I Double-A team over the likes of Wisconsin, Illinois, Marshall and all the SWAC schools.
Antoine said, "Freshmen weren't allowed to play varsity ball, so I played on the freshman team. My sophomore year I started at tight end at Southern Illinois. I was All-Conference as a sophomore. Honorable mention All-American by sophomore year and my junior year I made the All-American team and also my senior years. So I was a two-time Kodak Magazine first-team All-American."
The Chicago Bears were high on the 6-foot-6, 258 pound Antoine and with their first pick, 3rd overall in the 1972 NFL Draft, the Bears selected the Biloxi native. He moved from tight end to offensive tackle and wore jersey number 79.
"At the time I didn't know the impact of being the third player selected, "stated Antoine. "I just took it all with a grain of salt until negotiation time started. The fourth and fifth players picked were all waiting on the first three players to sign so they could cage their salary to ours. I was a real big thing. and as of today I'm the highest pick in Southern Illinois history."
So how much money did the 3rd overall player in the 1972 draft make?
He said, "We got a $100,000 bonus. My first year signing was about $30,000. The last season that I played I had a guaranteed contract and my salary was $115,00 and that was the most money I made and in all the years I played, I didn't make a million-dollars combined."
Antoine played seven seasons with a nagging knee injury that hindered his overall playing time... a knee injury that ended his career in 1979.
Tomorrow Antoine will talk about blocking for another Mississippian, running back Walter Payton.