Big Ten

Huskers' Randy Gregory out to prove doubters wrong after NFL Draft fall

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Huskers' Randy Gregory out to prove doubters wrong after NFL Draft fall

Sometimes not being picked early in the NFL Draft can be just as much of a headline — if not a bigger one — than going No. 1 overall.

Such was the case for Nebraska's Randy Gregory this weekend.

Within the past few months, the Huskers defensive end went from a potential top-five pick to what he ended up being: a late-second-round selection of the Dallas Cowboys on Day 2 of the draft Friday night in Chicago.

Gregory was the last one left in the green room when the Cowboys took him with the No. 60 pick, the final player to get to pose with commissioner Roger Goodell.

[MORE BIG TEN: 2015 could be final year of Big Ten's first-round QB drought]

But Gregory's case wasn't as simple as a guy who teams thought wasn't worthy of their top pick. Gregory was one of several draft prospects who ran into troubles involving marijuana use, including failing a drug test at the Combine.

Gregory owned up to what he called a "real dumb mistake" after finally getting his name called, saying that he knew it would affect his draft stock. He said he's ready to get to work and put this "embarrassing" incident behind him.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit (bitter about getting picked so late). Obviously, everyone wants to be picked high, but at the same time, I understood why I wasn't picked high. I know I put myself in that position," Gregory said. "The main goal is to make plays anyways. So I'm going to carry myself with a chip on my shoulder, and the Dallas Cowboys are going to do the same. That's why they've had that success is that mentality. I think that's why everyone looks at them that way. I think that's why they've had the tradition they've had. That's why us together we can do some big things."

[MORE BIG TEN: Three Big Ten players picked in NFL Draft's first round]

But for all the honesty Gregory displayed in discussing his mistake and the thankfulness he showed for being selected by any team at any spot in the draft, the case is still a curious one.

As mentioned, other prospects had similar issues. Another defensive end, Shane Ray, was also caught using marijuana. That was also among the lengthy list of troubles of wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. The Broncos traded up to get Ray in the first round. Green-Beckham went ahead of Gregory in the second round.

So why was Gregory continually passed up?

An NFL.com report last week pointed to a strange concern many coaches and scouts had with Gregory leading up to the draft, though no one definitively stated what that was. One NFL general manager was quoted in that report saying, "There are more negatives than positives."

From NFL.com's Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer:

At least three general managers view him as a top-five talent. But according to more than a dozen coaches, scouts, personnel chiefs and GMs, there is concern about Gregory's ability to handle the mental rigors of professional football. And just how far he drops in this week's draft will likely hinge on the individual psychological profiles (and the results of related testing) put together by each team, according to multiple veteran evaluators. He has been taken off a several team's draft boards, according to multiple sources.

[MORE BIG TEN: Buckeyes' Cardale Jones pranks Twitter with fake transfer to Akron]

Gregory seemed to allude to whatever this issue is after he was selected Friday, though he, too, refused to go into details, saying only that the Cowboys seemed to be OK with things.

"My situation's a little unique. I can't go into details," Gregory said. "I sat down with Jerry Jones, we had a heart-to-heart, talked for about 40 minutes, and I think we were on the same page. I met with coach (Jason) Garrett and coach (Rod) Marinelli, and I think we've got a good idea of what we need to do. They have a great support system there. Obviously they've had guys in the past that they worked with, and that's one of the big things that we probably looked at. It's probably the best spot for me in this draft, it really is."

We might never find out whether this was just a kid making the same mistake that a ton of kids make or something more. But the Cowboys seemed satisfied enough to make Gregory their second-round draft pick. Now it's up to Gregory to not only make them proud on the field but off it, as well.

"There's a lot of tradition with this organization, and I don't want to be the one to bring bad light on that. And I won't be," Gregory said. "That's one of the things I gave my word to them when they called me when they were about to make the pick. I promised them that I was going to work my ass off to make plays on the field and I was going to work my ass off so they don't have to worry about me off the field.

"(I'm) somebody that's going to prove a lot of people wrong, basically 31 other teams wrong and a lot of other people that are looking at me and doubting me. Us and the Cowboys, we're going to prove those doubters wrong, we really are."

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.