Big Ten

Mike Kafka joins Northwestern coaching staff as graduate assistant

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Mike Kafka joins Northwestern coaching staff as graduate assistant

Mike Kafka has returned to Northwestern.

The former Wildcats quarterback was announced Tuesday as one of three additions to Pat Fitzgerald's coaching staff as graduate assistants, along with Tim Brandon and Steve Pursley. Kafka will have a focus on wide receivers, the team announced.

Kafka, a Chicago native and St. Rita product, played for Fitzgerald for four seasons at Northwestern from 2006 to 2009. After appearing in nine games in his first two seasons, he appeared in eight as a junior and all 13 during the 2009 season as a senior. He threw for 3,430 yards that season and scored a total of 25 touchdowns — 16 through the air, eight on the ground and one receiving.

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Kafka had a ridiculous performance in the 2010 Outback Bowl, throwing for 532 yards and four touchdowns (as well as five interceptions) and rushing for another touchdown. Northwestern lost that mighty entertaining game to Auburn in overtime, 38-35.

Kafka set single-game school records for passing yardage and rushing yardage by a quarterback, and his 3,725 yards of total offense in 2009 still rank second all-time in program history.

Kafka was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft and played in four games in his NFL career, all with the Eagles during the 2011 season. But he hung around the NFL for a few seasons, making offseason rosters and practice squads through 2015.

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.