Big Ten

Illini add former Cal linebacker Hardy Nickerson, son of new DC

Illini add former Cal linebacker Hardy Nickerson, son of new DC

Illinois' hiring of Hardy Nickerson is already paying big recruiting dividends in the form of Hardy Nickerson.

The son of the Illini's new defensive coordinator, who has the same name as his father, announced Thursday that he will come to Champaign as a graduate transfer.

A linebacker, the younger Nickerson spent the past four years with the California Golden Bears and was one of the team's best defensive players a season ago, leading Cal with 112 total tackles.

"After much thought, prayer and numerous discussions with my parents, I have decided to graduate from Cal and pursue a post-graduate degree at the University of Illinois in the fall," the younger Nickerson announced on his Twitter account. "A most unique opportunity presented itself when my father joined the Illinois football staff as their new defensive coordinator just last month. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play my final year of college football for my father and head coach Lovie Smith, and it is an opportunity that I simply cannot pass up."

In 35 career games with the Bears, Nickerson recorded 246 tackles, nine tackles for loss, one interception, two forced fumbles and a trio of fumble recoveries. He racked up double-digit tackles in each of Cal's last eight games last season. Nickerson was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention last year.

A graduate transfer, Nickerson will be immediately eligible to play at Illinois.

It's a huge addition for the Illini, who need to replace all three starting linebackers from a season ago.

The elder Nickerson had a terrific career as an NFL linebacker, making five Pro Bowls with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He worked as a Smith assistant for three seasons with the Bears and Buccaneers before joining Smith at Illinois this spring.

"It's a unique and exciting situation for the Nickerson family," Smith said in Illinois' announcement Thursday. "Hardy is a tremendous leader, and his outstanding work ethic will help the young players on our team. I'm very happy that he will get the chance to play for coach Nickerson in his final season as a college player."

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

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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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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.