Big Ten

Ohio State draft decisions: Curtis Samuel leaving for NFL, Tyquan Lewis coming back

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USA TODAY

Ohio State draft decisions: Curtis Samuel leaving for NFL, Tyquan Lewis coming back

Two more Ohio State stars announced their NFL Draft decisions Monday.

H-back Curtis Samuel announced he'll leave for the draft, while defensive end Tyquan Lewis made it known he'll be back in scarlet and gray next season.

Samuel starred both catching the ball and running it this season. He was the team's leading receiver, catching 74 passes for 865 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He also carried the ball 97 times for 771 yards and eight touchdowns.

Samuel finished with 107 catches for 1,249 yards and nine touchdowns plus 1,286 rushing yards 15 rushing touchdowns.

"I arrived in Columbus in 2014 as a Brooklyn boy excited for the opportunity of playing college football on the biggest stage," Samuel wrote on Twitter. "The passion of Buckeye Nation has made my experience at The Ohio State University unforgettable. I have been privileged and honored to have amazing and incredibly talented teammates who are my friends for life.

"As I reflect on the past three years, I am very proud of our accomplishments. We beat TTUN (The Team Up North a.k.a. Michigan) all three seasons. We made it to the College Football Playoff this season and of course we were national champions in 2014.

"Coach (Urban) Meyer and I have the strongest bond, I am extremely thankful for everything he has done for me. He has helped develop me into both the player and the man I am today. Coach (Mickey) Maroti, you helped sculpt me both physically and mentally. I will always be thankful for the hard work you have put in with me.

"I would like to thank my family, which has been there to support me through every step of my journey. Their love and support gives me the strength to keep getting better every day. I thank God for the opportunities that he has blessed me with, to put me in the situation I am in today. I have decided to realize my dream and enter the 2017 NFL Draft."

Lewis was the team's leader with 10.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He recorded 29 total tackles. In his first three seasons at Ohio State, he's totaled 92 tackles with 26.5 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks.

"It has been an honor to receive my bachelor's degree from The Ohio State University and to play football at the highest level for the best program in the nation and in front of the best fans," Lewis wrote on Twitter. "I can honestly say that I love my teammates, coaches and support staff. And no one is better at mentoring, leading and helping a young person develop on and off the field than coach Meyer, coach (Larry) Johnson and our strength coach, coach Mick. I am so proud of being a part of four Ohio State teams, including winning a national championship in 2014. But I am still hungry for more. And that's why I have made my decision to return to The Ohio State University next season to help the Buckeyes reach our goal of playing for championships and once again being the best team in the country. I can't wait to get started."

While Samuel's departure strips the Buckeyes of one of their only reliable receivers from the 2016 campaign, Lewis' return maintains a strong defensive line that should be even stronger in 2017.

Illinois came close to adding Divison I hockey team before coronavirus spread

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NBC Sports Chicago

Illinois came close to adding Divison I hockey team before coronavirus spread

After trying to add a Division I men's ice hockey program at the University of Illinois for nearly three years, the school was finally close. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The Chicago Tribune reported Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman told media on Monday that the university was forced to "hit the pause button" on the hopes and dreams of alums, sports fans and young hockey players with midwest ties. 

“Clearly with everything that’s changed here in the last six weeks, it makes sense for us to hit the — at least the short-term — pause button on that project while we wait and let things unfold in the weeks and months ahead,” Whitman said.

According to Whitman, U of I was about a month away from forming the program before the pandemic changed things.

The state of Illinois produces the fourth-most college hockey players but has no Division I hockey team yet. 

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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.